NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration, LLCD, which transfers data to and from the moon via a laser, has set a new download rate record, reaching a speed of 622 megabits per second. The new laser-based communication system would replace the current system, which uses radio frequencies to beam data to and from the moon.
The space agency hopes the LLCD, which is aboard the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, LADEE, will increase the bandwidth and speed of communication as files become larger and more multimedia is being sent to and from space. In addition to its incredible speed, the LLCD is able to provide error-free transmissions at a speed of 20 Mbps. According to NASA, radio frequency transmissions are reaching their threshold and there is a demand for higher data capacity, as it will lead to higher-resolution images, faster communication and the ability to send 3D videos from space.
Badri Younes, NASA's deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation, said in a statement, “We are encouraged by the results of the demonstration to this point, and we are confident we are on the right path to introduce this new capability into operational service soon.”
The LLCD is a test system, determining capability, speed and error rate, for NASA’s laser system that will launch in 2017. The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, LCRD, is being developed as part of the Technology Demonstration Missions Program, TDM. In addition to the LCRD, NASA’s TDM is developing a Deep Space Atomic Clock to improve navigation; telerobots that could do routine work aboard a spacecraft; and a supersonic decelerator so large that spacecraft can land safely on a planet.
In addition to the LLCD, NASA will test a new laser communication system aboard the International Space Station. The Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science, OPALS, will transfer video data from the ISS to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory, located in Wrightwood, Calif., and will be launched to the ISS on a SpaceX Dragon commercial resupply capsule on the Falcon 9 rocket.