16 million kilometers away, NASA conducts a laser communication test to gather data.

NASA has successfully tested data transmission over 16 million kilometers using a laser-based communication system. The American space agency anticipates that the technology will significantly enhance Earth-to-spacecraft data linkages for deep space exploration. On NASA’s Psyche mission, the technique known as Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) is being tested. The organization sent out Psyche last month to study an asteroid that is primarily made of metal. DSOC sends a lot of data over vast distances using lasers. In the past, NASA has sent and received data to and from outer space via radio frequency communications. Currently, meanwhile, the agency is working to enhance its infrastructure to accommodate upcoming space missions and new technology.

Fast data transfer over large distances is made possible via laser communications, commonly referred to as optical communications. NASA stated that “up to 100 times more data can be transmitted back to Earth than current radio frequency systems” thanks to advancements in laser technology. NASA calculates that using the current radio frequency technologies, it would take roughly nine weeks to send a comprehensive map of Mars back to Earth. However, nine days would be the period using a laser-based approach. Additionally, laser communications hardware requires less energy and takes up less room in spacecrafts.

Recently, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California reported that the DSOC technique had passed a successful test. The researchers reported that using a telescope in Southern California, a component on the Psyche spacecraft was able to send and receive data signals. The laser system, according to NASA, operates with signals that have near-infrared wavelengths. Bits are the smallest units of data that a computer can handle, and they are the form that data communicated by laser takes. The photons of the laser have these fragments imbedded in them. The successful data signal broadcasts were referred to as “first light” by the NASA crew. At over 16 million kilometers, the experiment was “the farthest-ever demonstration of optical communications.”

At NASA Headquarters in Washington, Trudy Kortes oversees technology demonstrations for the Space Technology Mission Directorate. The first light event is one “of many critical DSOC milestones” that she anticipates seeing in the upcoming months, according to a statement she made. She declared that the successful contact is a further step “in support of humanity’s next… goal: sending humans to Mars.”






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