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Laser Demonstration Reveals Bright Future For Space Communication

By NASA News

December 30, 2013

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The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has completed its Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) mission, showing significant potential for increasing broadband capabilities in space using laser communications.

The LLCD tested laser communication capabilities from a distance of almost 250,000 miles. The mission achieved record-breaking data download speeds to the moon of 622 Mbps and uploads of 20 Mbps, and demonstrated that it could operate as well as any NASA radio system.

"Throughout our testing we did not see anything that would prevent the operational use of this technology in the immediate future," says NASA's Don Cornwell. LLCD provided error-free communications during broad daylight and when the moon was low on the horizon, proving that wind and atmospheric turbulence did not significantly impact the system. Cornwell says LLCD was able to download the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer's (LADEE) entire stored science and spacecraft data of 1 GB in less than five minutes, while downloading the same data using LADEE's onboard radio system would take several days.

As a next step, NASA will conduct its Laser Communications Relay Demonstration to confirm continuous laser relay communication capabilities at more than 1 billion bits per second between two Earth stations using a satellite in geosynchronous orbit.

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