Next week NASA will be launching equipment for the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration, via Orbital Science’s Minotaur V rocket. The equipment will be headed to the moon, so NASA can test two way laser communications between earth and space.
The LLCD is NASA’s chance to prove the validity and usefulness of laser communications, which have not heretofore experienced such a dramatic test.
NASA is turning to laser communication because, quite simply, the airwaves are overcrowded. With Wi-Fi signals, cell phone communication, and radio waves spilling energy all over the world, the radio and microwave portions of the electromagnetic spectrum are now being used almost to their full capacity.
By developing laser communications technology, NASA will buy itself some stretching space in a far less regulated and congested area of the spectrum. Furthermore, since laser wavelengths are 10,000x smaller than those used before, the new medium will be far more secure, and capable of sending much larger amounts of data
Laser communication tech will allow for 622 Mbps communication from earth to space which, besides being five times faster than current, state-of-the-art radio communications tech, is more than five times the speed of many in-home WiFi networks. What’s more, the laser technology will do it all at 25% less power.
NASA’s LLCD is being launched with the hopes of preparing the way for more advanced experiments down the road. High bandwidth communication between earth and space is an essential development to enable deep space industrial missions.
Deep Space Industries, for example, plans to mine asteroids for precious metals, and sees potential in the laser based communications to aid in their missions.
“It would be very useful for robotic space exploration that we’re planning, because when we attempt to tele-operate a device millions of miles away, we need to be able to see what it sees and to give it instructions,” David Gump, CEO of Deep Space Industries, told TechNewsWorld.
For the purposes of testing deep space laser communication, NASA hopes to use results from the LLCD to “advance it to a higher technology readiness level for its planned Laser Communications Relay Demonstration,” agency spokesperson David Steitz told TechNewsWorld.
This further test is planned for 2017, and will be launched for the purpose of testing laser communications in deep space.
While it’s not the same as putting a man on Mars, it is certain to say that NASA’s current projects are still paving the way for mankind’s exploration of the solar system, and beyond.