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NASA Readies Laser Test to Speed up Space Communications

US space agency NASA is all set for a new era of laser services after the mission was delayed for two years. NASA Laser Communications Relay Demonstration is ready for launch on December 4. It will ride to space on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V-551 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.

Laser Communications Relay Demonstration will showcase the unique capabilities of optical communications to increase bandwidth for communicating in space while reducing size, weight, and power requirements. Laser Communications Relay Demonstration will fly as a payload on Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6), the primary spacecraft of the Space Test Programme 3 (STP-3) mission for the Department of Defense.

The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration will be NASA first end-to-end laser relay system, sending and receiving data over invisible infrared lasers at a rate of approximately 1.2 gigabits per second from geo-synchronous orbit to Earth. The data rates are 10 to 100 times higher than traditional radio frequency systems, laser communications systems will provide future missions with extraordinary data capabilities.

Engineers will beam data between LCRD and optical ground stations located in Table Mountain, California, and Haleakala, Hawaii, once positioned more than 22,000 miles above the Earth. Experiments will refine the transmission process, study different operational scenarios, and perfect tracking systems.The launch of the mission was delayed due to numerous issues since the mission’s initial target of 2019. But investigators said the timing of the task is still soon enough to benefit the Artemis human moon-landing program that plans to put boots on the moon in 2025.

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