NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications Demonstration sends and receives the first data

“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 transmitting scientific information, high-definition images and video streaming to support humanity’s next giant leap: Sending humans to MarsTrudy Curtis, technology demonstration manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said:

Test data was also transmitted simultaneously via uplink and downlink lasers, a procedure known as “link closure” that is the primary goal of the experiment. Although the technology demonstration does not transmit Psyche mission data, it works closely with the Psyche mission support team to ensure DSOC operations do not interfere with spacecraft operations.

“Tuesday morning’s test was the first to fully integrate ground and flight transponder assets, requiring the DSOC and Psyche operations teams to work side by side,” said Meera Srinivasan, DSOC operations lead at JPL. “It was a huge challenge, and we have a lot of work to do, but for a short time, we were able to send, receive and decrypt some data.”

Before this milestone, the project needed to tick the boxes of several other milestones, from removing the protective cover of the aviation laser transceiver to commissioning the device. Meanwhile, the Psyche spacecraft is performing its own checks, including operating its propulsion systems and test instruments that will be used to study asteroid Psyche when it arrives there in 2028.

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