NASA announced Thursday that the agency has successfully received data in the farthest-ever demonstration of laser, or optical, communications.
Scientists say that NASA’s deep space optical communications (DSOC) The experiment sent a near-infrared laser encoded with test data from about 10 million miles away — about 40 times farther from the Moon than Earth — to the Hale Telescope at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California.
This success, known as “first light,” is an important stepping stone toward increasing the amount of data that can be transmitted across the solar system.
“Achieving first light is one of many important milestones for DSOC in the coming months, paving the way toward higher data rate communications capable of sending scientific information, high-definition images and streaming video to support humanity’s next giant leap: sending humans,” said Trudy Curtis, Promotion Director. Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.: “To Mars.”
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Comparing the optical communications upgrade to switching from traditional telephone lines to fiber optics, NASA noted that the use of optical communications would increase the capacity of modern radio systems currently used by spacecraft by 10 to 100 times.
The DSOC experiment is NASA’s first demonstration of optical communications outside the Moon, the agency said. It is a system consisting of an aviation laser transmitter and receiver, a ground laser transmitter and a ground laser receiver.
The transceiver was traveling along NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, which launched on October 13. The spacecraft’s primary mission is to reach and study asteroid Psyche 16, a metal-rich body in the asteroid belt.
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DSOC was included in the spacecraft, which completed a significant milestone during its first phase Two-stage task.
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