NASA is taking the first steps toward a scientific leap forward in space communications

Human ambition does not stop at its limits, and the desire of world powers to expand knowledge and exploration of the universe does not stop at national borders.To extend the World Wide Web to the entire galaxy, I proposed NASA agency It reported in a press release the results of test experiments conducted to achieve this goal, in which encrypted data messages were sent via laser beams from a distance of approximately 16 million kilometers.

This is approximately 40 times the distance from the moon to the Earth, and is the first time optical communications have been transmitted over this distance.

Traditionally, radio waves have been used to communicate with distant spacecraft, but higher frequency light, such as near-infrared light, can provide greater bandwidth, significantly increasing data speeds.

So if humans can eventually send high-definition video messages to and from Mars without significant delays, this experiment is a step toward the technology we need.

Watch the video below explaining the mission of using lasers to communicate and transmit data in deep space.

Deep space optical communications

NASA’s test was part of the Deep Space Optical Communications Experiment, known as “DSOC,” and achieved what’s known as the experiment’s “first light.”

Trudy Curtis, director of technology demonstrations, said in a NASA press release that this is one of several important milestones for the deep space optical communications experiment, providing higher data capabilities for sending scientific information and high-resolution images. Speed ​​communication paves the way. Play the video to support humanity’s next giant leap.

As the report posted on the ScienceAlert website points out, we all rely on similar technology embedded in fiber optics for high-speed terrestrial communications, but the technology has been adapted to deep space to improve existing methods of returning information back to Earth.

Because the light used in the experiment is in the infrared range, engineers can easily transmit its waves in the form of lasers. This doesn’t cause the light to move faster, but it organizes and compresses the beam into a narrow channel, which requires much less energy than scattering radio waves and is harder to intercept.

The Psyche spacecraft with laser transceiver has a gold cover.  (NASA/Ben Smegelski)
Image shows the SAIC spacecraft and its gold-coated laser transceiver (NASA)

The technical requirements are not simple

To achieve this, data is encoded in the photons emitted by the laser, which requires a lot of heavy-duty tools to prepare the information for transmission and translate it on the other end.

Another challenge is getting the system to adjust its settings to determine location in real time. For example, in the latest test, it took about 50 seconds for a laser photon to travel from the spacecraft to the telescope, and while that was happening, both were hurtling through space because the laser transmitter and receiver making the connection were both on board. The Psyche spacecraft, on a two-year technical experiment mission to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, connected with the Hale telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California.

The SAIC rover plans to orbit Mars, so testing will continue to improve and develop innovative near-infrared laser communications methods to ensure they are fast and reliable.

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