Tag Archives: laser communications

In an engineering test, LADEE successfully used a laser to beam information back from the Moon this past weekend.

In an engineering test, LADEE successfully used a laser to beam information back from the Moon this past weekend.

Lasers could enhance space communications and lead to radical changes in spacecraft design. Today’s spacecraft communicate with radio, but radiofrequency wavelengths are so long that they require large dishes to capture the signals. Laser wavelengths are 10,000 times shorter than radio, the upshot being that a spacecraft could deliver much more data then even the best modern radio system. For scale, NASA says that the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft that’s carrying this laser experiment would take 639 hours to download an average-length HD movie using ordinary S-band communications. LLCD could download the film in less than eight minutes.

NASA announces awards for three technology demonstration space missions

NASA has announced three awards for technology demonstration space missions, all set to fly within four years. More details here.

The three missions are:

  • A solar sail demonstration mission, flying a sail 38 by 38 meter sail.
  • A demonstration of in-space laser/optical communications technologies.
  • The use of a high-precision atomic clock in space.

I especially like the solar sail mission because of its long range possibilities, though the other technologies would probably be put to practical use more quickly.