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NASA Taking First Steps Toward High speed Space ‘Internet’

Baby Steps for High Speed Space Internet Being Taken Up by NASA

We all know how mandatory high speed Internet has become in today’s time and age. We all want to experience Lightning fast Internet Speed while working our way through the net. Well, we got good news for you. If all goes well with whatever NASA has planned then soon we could have a long-term technology of high speed space Internet also popularly referred to as Internet of the sky. 

How is NASA going to do that?

NASA has planned to get help from LSRD (Laser Communication Relay Department) in order to understand the best ways to use systems involving laser communications. By operating such systems NASA will be able to provide data rates which are supremely higher than the current ones available. By enabling such higher data rate NASA will hence enhance communications between earth and spacecrafts, between astronauts and also downlink of scientific data.

As per the associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Department LCRD will act as a guiding step for NASA towards a revolutionary system of optical communication which will benefit both deep space as well as near-Earth missions immensely.

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So what exactly is Laser communications?

Before we learn more about the project it is essential to know what Laser communication is. Also termed as Optical communications, laser communications works by encoding data on to light beams and then transmitting them between the sender (commonly spacecrafts) and the receiver (earth terminals).

Using optical communications one can get Internet speeds up to 100 times faster than the current obtained speed using RF (Radio Frequency) communication systems. Another benefit that will be achieved using Laser communications is that the size of the spacecraft will be drastically reduced as the systems involving Laser communications are of much smaller size than that of RF communications. Hence the power requirements of such spacecrafts will be significantly lower thus helping humans to embark on journeys to Mars and even beyond.

The building block upon which LCRD is being developed is the LLCD or Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration which in 2013 was used to demonstrate high rate data transfer using laser communications beyond the orbit of the earth. LCRD will further aim to demonstrate the reliability and the longevity of the technology being used.

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How long can LCRD function?

As per the designs applied in LCRD it will be able to sustain for two to five years with two terminals at ground level having laser modems, one located at Hawaii and the other at California. These two terminals will provide demonstrations of laser communications with LCRD which will be located in a geosynchronous orbit between both the stations.

How does the LCRD work?

The payload of the LCRD has two optical terminals which are identical and are connected by a space switching component acting as a router. This space switching component is then connected to a RF downlink. As soon as the data transfer begins the modems will start to convert digital data into radio frequency or laser signals and vice versa. Once the data has been converted to laser the module will actively beam the laser i.e. the data back to the receiving stations on the Earth. The modules must thus be accurately pointed so that the transmission and reception of data is done perfectly. This is achieved by the controllers Electronics module which commands and controls the actuators despite vibrations and movements around it.

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