NASA Is Trying To Make Space Internet A Reality

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NASA may be close to transforming high-speed space internet into a reality.

NASA will be launching a new device which might bring it closer to achieving a long-term goal. The aerospace agency may be close to transforming high-speed space internet into a reality. It may do so thanks to its latest long-term project.

NASA’s LCRD To Help Reveal Achieve Space Internet?

The space agency’s project will be looking to bring a boost to the communications technology area. It will try to do so as it may improve the astronauts’ communication. This will be especially helpful as NASA is looking to launch long-term and far far-flung mission towards Mars and possibly even beyond it.

In order to do so, the space agency will be using the LCRD. This is the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration. Through it, NASA researchers are hoping to better understand how to best use laser communication systems.

These should ensure “much higher data rates between spacecraft and Earth”. According to the aerospace agency, this can include anything from astronaut communications to scientific data downlink. This is also a step forward in NASA’s bigger plan for space internet. According to Steve Jurczyk, the LCRD could help achieve optical communications.

These would be helpful for both near-Earth and deep space missions. Jurczyk is the LCRD project leader and an associate administrator at the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate. He also stated that this new technology could be revolutionary for the domain.

For the project, NASA will be collaborating with the MIT Lincoln Labs, the US Air Force. Also, they will be partners with the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate Space Communications and Navigation program office.

Space Internet And The Technology Behind It

For its experiment, and in the future, NASA is planning on using optical communications. More simply known as laser communications, this works as follows. The technology involves encoding data on a light beam. Then, this will from a spacecraft to Earth. The space agency claims this to be about “10 to 100 time better” than the currently used technology. Presently, the agency uses RF or radio frequency.

Besides being faster, this new method would also be smaller. This would also mean that future spacecraft communication systems could be smaller, lighter, and have a lower power requirement.

If all goes according to schedule, LCRD should be launched by sometime in summer 2019. NASA stated that the project is now in the “integration and test stage” of its deployment. The system should then work in between 2 to 5 years.

LCRD will have a geosynchronous orbit and will transmit through a “space switching unit”. This will act as a data router as it sends back the payload to 2 identical optical terminals. These will be situated in Hawaii and California. They will feature laser modems which will translate the digital data. This will be turned into RF signals from laser ones or vice versa.

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