NASA and MIT have made history this week as their new Lunar Laser Communications Demonstrator (LLCD) started firing data back and forth between earth and space at a rate of up to 622mbps, five time the rate currently available to them.
“(LCCD) is working better than expected, we just finished the first four days, and it has been extremely successful, beyond our expectations.” Said Don Cornwell, Mission Manager at NASA’s Goddard Flight Center.
This new system will have a big impact on spacecraft communication technology, with many craft currently relying on radiofrequency wavelengths. Current technology for example could take 639 hours to download something the size of a typical HD movie, the new system could do it in minutes. It can make a big difference to size also, given that radio signals need a larger dish to capture them, laser has a wavelength that is 10,000 times shorter and this allows the receiver to be much smaller and more precise.
The 4” laser beam hit is target first time after traveling 238,000 miles from the moon to the receiving base in New Mexico. The next laser communications system will launch in 2016 and will be used to beam 1.25 gigabits per second of data from one ground stations to another.
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Image courtesy of PopularMechanics.