NASA laser communications test riding with Psyche sends back…

An experimental test of laser communications with the Psyche mission has sent back its first data demonstrating the use of laser communications for deep space missions. The Deep Space Optical Communications, or DSOC experiment, attached to the Psyche spacecraft, is currently headed toward an asteroid in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter after launching last month.

Communications for NASA’s deep space missions are controlled by the Deep Space Network, a network of antennas at three locations around the world that primarily use radio. But laser communications can provide 10 to 100 times more bandwidth, so NASA wants to experiment with using this technology in situations like transferring science data.

NASA's Psyche spacecraft is shown in a clean room at the Astrotech Space Operations Facility near the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 8, 2022.  DSOC's gold-clad flight laser transceiver can be seen attached to the spacecraft, near center.
NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is shown in a clean room at the Astrotech Space Operations Facility near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 8, 2022. DSOC’s gold-clad flight laser transceiver can be seen attached to the spacecraft. NASA/Ben Smegelsky

DSOC transmitted test data from nearly 10 million miles away on November 14, sending it via laser to the California Institute of Technology’s Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California. This broadcast is called “first light” of the mission.

“Achieving first light is one of many important DSOC milestones in the coming months in support of humanity’s next giant leap toward high-data-rate communications capable of sending scientific information, high-definition imagery and streaming video.” Paves the way: sending humans to Mars,” Trudy Cortes, director of technology demonstrations at NASA, said in a statement.

Testing is more difficult than using radio waves for communication, because radio waves spread over a larger area as they travel, making them easier to capture. With laser communications, there is a narrow beam so the spacecraft and ground facilities have to be carefully aligned.

“[The]test was the first to completely involve ground assets and in-flight transceivers, requiring the DSOC and PSI operations teams to work together,” said Meera Srinivasan, DSOC operations chief at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “It was a tough challenge and we had a lot of work to do but in a short time we were able to get some data transmitted.” And were able to decode.”[ThetestwasthefirsttofullyincorporatethegroundassetsandflighttransceiverrequiringtheDSOCandPsycheoperationsteam[परीक्षणजमीनीसंपत्तिऔरउड़ानट्रांसीवरकोपूरीतरहसेशामिलकरनेवालापहलापरीक्षणथाजिसकेलिएडीएसओसीऔरसाइकीसंचालनटीमोंकोमिलकरकामकरनेकीआवश्यकताथी।””यहएककठिनचुनौतीथीऔरहमेंबहुतअधिककामकरनाहैलेकिनथोड़ेसमयकेलिएहमकुछडेटाप्रसारितकरनेप्राप्तकरनेऔरडिकोडकरनेमेंसक्षमथे।”[ThetestwasthefirsttofullyincorporatethegroundassetsandflighttransceiverrequiringtheDSOCandPsycheoperationsteamstoworkintandem”saidMeeraSrinivasanoperationsleadforDSOCatNASA’sJetPropulsionLaboratory“Itwasaformidablechallengeandwehavealotmoreworktodobutforashorttimewewereabletotransmitreceiveanddecodesomedata”

The DSOC experiment will continue for the next two years, primarily using test data, but potentially also sending back data from the Psyche spacecraft (Psyche is also equipped with conventional radio communications, so it will be used solely to test functionality). will be). If the system proves reliable, laser communications could help future missions send large amounts of science data back to Earth.

Dr. Jason Mitchell, director of the Advanced Communications and Navigation Technologies Division within NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation Division, said, “Optical communications is a boon for scientists and researchers who always want more from their space missions, and it can help humans navigate deeper into space. Will enable exploration of space.” (SCAN) program. “More data means more discoveries.”

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