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NASA readies first laser communications system for LADEE lunar satellite

James Trew, @itstrew
March 15, 2013
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NASA has just finished the testing and integration of its first high-data-rate laser communications system for the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE). The Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration presents a significant upgrade in existing data communications used in space -- with an estimated increase of six times the throughput of the current best radio system. Unlike previous one-way demonstrations, the LCDD uses an infrared beam -- in the same way that many land-based fiber networks do -- that can be received on Earth by one of three telescopes located in Mexico, California or Spain. It's not just about upping the data rate, though, as other challenges include keeping that signal good through conditions your ISP (thankfully) won't normally have to consider, such as pin-point accuracy over 238,900 miles while moving through space. Going forward, the LLCD will play a vital part in NASA's 2017 Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, a key test of laser-based relay comms in future missions. Back here on Earth, however, we never thought we'd get bandwidth-envy this far out in the sticks.

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