What is laser space communication and what does it give us?

What is laser space communication and what does it give us?

On December 11, 2023, the American space agency NASA for the first time sent high quality video from deep space to Earth using a laser. The signal transmission took a matter of seconds. Here we will explain to you why this experiment is so important for the future and what this technology represents.

In the 15-second video, a cat named Taters plays with a laser pointer. According to NASA, his video was received in Ultra HD quality on Earth from NASA's Psyche spacecraft on a record distance of 19 million miles - about 80 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon. The video of a cat belonging to a NASA staff member was pre-recorded and uploaded to Psyche, which launched on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Florida on October 13 of this year. The Psyche unmanned spacecraft mission is designed to reach and explore the metallic asteroid 16 Psyche, located 370 million miles from Earth. The spacecraft is expected to reach the asteroid belt, of which 16 Psyche is part, by 2029.


The laser signal from the spacecraft was received by the Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory  in California, and then each frame was sent to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where the video was played back entirely in real time. The video transfer took just 101 seconds, which was faster than the time it took to send the video over the Internet from the telescope to JPL. Space laser communications demonstrated amazing speeds. Streaming laser-powered video from deep space is an important milestone, as the technology could enable communications on future human missions beyond Earth orbit, such as missions to Mars and other distant planets.

Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) is NASA's existing laser space communications system, delivering data rates up to 100 times faster than traditional radio frequency technology. This system is part of The Deep Space Network (DSN), consisting of several of NASA's most powerful radio telescopes located on different continents. DSN not only provides constant communication with spacecrafts, but also allows for advanced scientific research into space, such as studying what the distant planets and asteroids are made of. 

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