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Lasers In Space

Pew! Pew!

Also: please read the title of this blog post like this guy:

Now that THAT’s out of my system, let’s get to the serious stuff.

As you may have already read, we attended the launch of NASA’s LADEE spacecraft from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island September 6th. LADEE is on its way to the moon with a primary mission to survey the lunar atmosphere and dust. Also along for the ride to the moon is a Lunar Lasercomm Space Terminal (LLST) for a first-of-its-kind Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD).

Lunar Lasercomm Space Terminal / Image credit: NASA

Today, NASA uses radio waves to communicate with satellites and astronauts in space. That’s great, but as we continue to push further into space, radio waves will begin to hold us back in terms of the amount of data that can be squeezed onto them.

The next step in space communications will likely involve lasers, which use a single, coherent wavelength that can be “tuned in” to a precise location. Because laser beams have a tighter wavelength than radio waves, you can transmit data on them at a faster rate. For example, downloading an HD movie from the moon using radio transmission technology would take more than an hour. LLCD can download that same HD video in less than eight minutes at a rate of 622 megabits per second.

Check out how it should work:

We say “should” because the LLCD aboard LADEE is planning to put this new “optical communications” technology to the test.

As noted in the video above, laser communications are dependent upon establishing a line of sight. Clouds (or any other obstruction) are a problem. It’s not exactly subspace communication, but it’s a step closer.

With the successful launch of LADEE, the LLCD is on its way to the moon and a chance to prove laser communication is a viable option as we look to explore the moon, Mars and beyond.


About No Kids, Will Travel

In the eyes of their friends and family, Amanda and Zeke are a young jet setting couple without any real responsibility. In real life, the stress of work and raising a kitten push them to flee reality at every opportunity. The "lack of obligation" gives them the chance to explore the world.

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