NASA recently announced it is planning to launch Laser Communications Relay Demonstration or LCRD to test a new way to communicate from space. 

An Amico Hoops report said that with the rising human and robotic existence of NASA in space, missions could take advantage of a new approach to "talk to Earth" that greatly accelerates the process of transferring data, the space agency reported.

This new development will enable laser connections. Meaning, it can transmit data to Earth about 10 to 100 times more compared to the present radio frequency systems.

It would take approximately nine weeks to send an entire map of Mars back to this planet through the use of available radio frequency systems. With this laser, as this report specified, it will only take around nine days.

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Science Times - Communication from Space: NASA Plans to Develop New Way to ‘Talk’ to Earth
(Photo : NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt, MD, USA on Wikimedia Commons)
A then new NASA-developed, laser-based space communication system would enable higher rates of satellite communications similar in capability to high-speed fiber optic networks on Earth.

LCRD Benefits

Essentially, Laser communication systems are perfect for tasks as they require less volume, power, and weight. Less mass, on the other hand, means more space for scientific tools while less power means less draining of spacecraft power system.

All of these features are important considerations for the space agency when it comes to designing and developing concepts for missions.

According to David Israel, lead investigator at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, LCRD will exhibit all the benefits of utilizing laser systems and "allows us to learn" how to make the best use of them in operations.

With this proven capability, laser communications can now be implemented in more missions, making it a standardized procedure to transmit and receive data.

Communication From Space

The infrared light used in laser communication varies from radio waves as the infrared light packs data in substantially narrower wavelengths.

Meaning, ground stations can, at one time, receive more data. Whereas laser communications are not essentially faster, more data can be transferred on the downlink.

Space laser communication stations are using a narrower "beamwidth" compared to radiofrequency systems. More so, provide tinier "footprints" can decrease interference or enhance security by substantially reducing the geographical area where an individual could intercept communications links.

Nonetheless, the laser communications telescope cited a ground station. It should then need to be precise when transmitted from thousands or even millions of miles.

An eccentricity of even one fraction of the degree can lead the laser to totally lose its target. Engineers of the NASA laser communications intricately designed laser missions to guarantee that his connection could take place.

Initial Trial Phase

The LCRD, as described on the NASA website, is 36,000 kilometers above the ground. It will be able to back missions in the near-Earth region. More so, it initial trial phase will be beneficial to mission ground stations in Hawaii and California, as well as Optical Earth Stations 1 and 2, as 'put on' users.

This would then enable NASA to investigate atmospheric turbulence in the laser, as well as practice altering support from one user to another.

Following the trial period, the LCRD is set to continue supporting space missions, transmitting and receiving data to and from satellites using infrared lasers.

The first user of the LCRD for communication from space will be called ILLUMA-T, which will be launched in 2022 to the International Space Station.

This station will then receive high-quality scientific data from instruments and experiments through the board of the space station and then send this data to 1.2-Gbps LCRD. The latter-mentioned then transmits it to the Earth stations just as fast.

Related information is shown on NASA Goddard's YouTube video below:

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