NASA's OPALS to beam data from space via laser

Jul 11, 2013
This artist's concept shows how the Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) laser will beam data to Earth from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA.

(Phys.org) —NASA will use the International Space Station to test a new communications technology that could dramatically improve spacecraft communications, enhance commercial missions and strengthen transmission of scientific data.

The Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS), an optical experiment, could improve NASA's data rates for communications with by a factor of 10 to 100. OPALS has arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida from the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. It is scheduled to launch to the space station later this year aboard a SpaceX Dragon commercial resupply capsule on the company's Falcon 9 rocket.

"OPALS represents a tangible stepping stone for laser communications, and the International Space Station is a great platform for an experiment like this," said Michael Kokorowski, OPALS project manager at JPL. "Future operational laser communication systems will have the ability to transmit more data from spacecraft down to the ground than they currently do, mitigating a significant bottleneck for scientific investigations and commercial ventures."

OPALS will be mounted on the outside of the International Space Station and communicate with a ground station in Wrightwood, Calif., a mountain town near Los Angeles.

"It's like aiming a continuously for two minutes at a dot the diameter of a human hair from 30 feet away while you're walking," explained OPALS systems engineer Bogdan Oaida of JPL.

The OPALS instrument was built at JPL and is slated to fly on the Dragon capsule in late 2013. The mission is expected to run 90 days after installation on the station.

Explore further: Bad weather delays SpaceX launch with 3-D printer

More information: go.nasa.gov/10MMPDO

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Second SpaceX Space Station resupply flight ready to go

Feb 26, 2013

(Phys.org)—The second International Space Station Commercial Resupply Services flight by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is set for liftoff at 10:10 a.m. EST on March 1 from Space Launch Complex ...

American resupply missions to the space station progressing

Oct 02, 2012

(Phys.org)—Orbital Sciences Corporation Monday rolled the first stage of its Antares rocket to the launch pad of the nation's newest spaceport - the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Va. - while in Florida, ...

Recommended for you

Internet moguls Musk, Bezos shake up US space race

Sep 20, 2014

The space race to end America's reliance on Russia escalated this week with a multibillion dollar NASA award for SpaceX's Elon Musk and an unexpected joint venture for Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos.

Winter in the southern uplands of Mars

Sep 19, 2014

Over billions of years, the southern uplands of Mars have been pockmarked by numerous impact features, which are often so closely packed that they overlap. One such feature is Hooke crater, shown in this ...

Five facts about NASA's ISS-RapidScat

Sep 19, 2014

NASA's ISS-RapidScat mission will observe ocean wind speed and direction over most of the globe, bringing a new eye on tropical storms, hurricanes and typhoons. Here are five fast facts about the mission.

User comments : 0