Sunday, May 23, 2021

NASA to test geosynchronous satellite laser at 1.2 Gbps

NASA is preparing to conduct a Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) that will launch on STPSat-6, the primary spacecraft of the third Space Test Program (STP-3) mission for the Department of Defense. STP-3 is scheduled to lift off on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket Wednesday, June 23, from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration will use microwave-oven-size optical modules will send and receive data over infrared lasers at 1.2 Gbps from geosynchronous orbit to Earth. The test will beam data between LCRD and optical ground stations located in Table Mountain, California, and Haleakalā, Hawaii. 

Later in its mission, LCRD will conduct optical communications relay services with a future terminal on the International Space Station, which is expected to launch on a commercial resupply services mission in 2022. These operations could prove the viability of using laser communications in future crewed missions to the Moon and Mars.

The LCRD mission is led by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Partners include NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. LCRD is funded through NASA's Technology Demonstration Missions program, part of the agency's Space Technology Mission Directorate, and the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program within the agency's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.