Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD)


  • Recently, NASA launched its new Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) the agency’s first-ever laser communications system from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

About Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD)

  • LCRD is part of the Space Test Program 3 mission, which is a joint venture between the US Space Force and NASA.
  • The LCRD will help the agency test optical communication in space.

    Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD)
  • Currently, most NASA spacecraft use radio frequency communications to send data.
  • Optical communications will help increase the bandwidth 10 to 100 times more than radio frequency systems.
  • LCRD will demonstrate all of the advantages of using laser systems and allow us to learn how to use them best operationally.
  • LCRD has two optical terminals – one to receive data from a user spacecraft, and the other to transmit data to ground stations.
  • The modems will translate the digital data into laser signals.
  • This will then be transmitted via encoded beams of light. These capabilities make LCRD NASA’s first two-way, end-to-end optical relay.
  • The LCRD payload is hosted onboard the US Department of Defense’s Space Test Program Satellite 6 (STPSat-6). It will be in a geosynchronous orbit, over 35,000km above Earth.
  • For the first two years, LCRD will test its communications capabilities.
  • Using infrared lasers, LCRD will send data to Earth at 1.2 gigabits-per-second (Gbps). At this speed, it will take less than a minute to download a movie.
  • The goal of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration project is to prove the utility of bidirectional optical communications relay services between geosynchronous orbit and Earth. The project supports the advanced communications, navigation, and avionics exploration key focus areas. This effort will prove optical communications technology in an operational setting, providing data rates up to 100 times faster than today’s radio frequency-based communication systems.

Other advantages

  • Optical communications systems are smaller in size, weight, and require less power compared with radio instruments.
  • A smaller size means more room for science instruments.
  • Less weight means a less expensive launch. Less power means less drain on the spacecraft’s batteries.
  • With optical communications supplementing radio, missions will have unparalleled communications capabilities.

Laser communications VS radio communications

  • Laser communications and radio waves use different wavelengths of light.
  • Laser uses infrared light and has a shorter wavelength than radio waves. This will help the transmission of more data in a short time.
  • It would take roughly nine weeks to transmit a completed map of Mars back to Earth with current radio frequency systems. With lasers, it can accelerate that to about nine days.

Source: IE

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