Laser communication mission targets 2017 launch

Dec 03, 2013
This is an artist rendering of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration hosted aboard a Space Systems Loral commercial communications satellite. Credit: Space Systems/Loral

NASA's next laser communication mission recently passed a Preliminary Design Review (PDR), another major milestone towards the launch of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) scheduled for 2017.

The PDR is a major agency evaluation milestone of the engineering plan to execute the build and launch of LCRD onboard a Space Systems Loral commercial satellite. "The board concluded that the LCRD review was a resounding success," said Tupper Hyde, chairperson of the PDR. "They met all review success criteria and the LCRD team is ready to proceed with mission plans to conduct this ground-breaking demonstration."

The LCRD project is NASA's first long duration optical communications mission. This demonstration will build from NASA's highly successful Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) mission. LCRD will conduct a two-year demonstration of optical relay services to determine how well the system operates and collect long-term performance data. The Goddard team leads the project with significant support from MIT Lincoln Laboratory, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Space Systems/Loral (SSL).

Space laser communications technology has the potential to provide 10 to 100 times higher data rates than traditional radio frequency systems for the same mass and power. This has now been proven on NASA's LLCD mission. LCRD is a longer duration mission that will provide the necessary knowledge and experience to operate future mission critical optical communications systems.

The LCRD mission is a necessary technology development step that will allow NASA to go from LLCD's technology "existence proof" to demonstrating reliable optical services. "The LCRD team demonstrated that the mission design fulfills NASA requirements and the mission architecture will meet the agency's needs, goals and objectives," said Michael Weiss, project manager for LCRD. "We are very pleased that we are ready to proceed with flight hardware activities."

Last year NASA awarded Space Systems Loral (SSL) of Palo Alto, Calif., a $3 million contract to initiate the process of hosting the LCRD on a Loral commercial satellite. Positioning LCRD aboard the commercial communication satellite platform is a cost effective approach to place LCRD in orbit. The agreement marked the first time NASA has contracted to fly a payload on an American-manufactured commercial communications satellite.

When launched, NASA's technology demonstration payload will be positioned above the equator, a prime location for line-of-sight to other orbiting satellites and ground stations. The SSL satellite will provide the right location, space availability, and power systems needed to conduct the space tests.

Explore further: NASA laser communication system sets record with data transmissions to and from Moon

More information: esc.gsfc.nasa.gov/267/LCRD.html

Related Stories

Space laser to prove increased broadband possible

Aug 28, 2013

When NASA's Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) begins operation aboard the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission managed by NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, ...

NASA to demonstrate communications via laser beam

Sep 23, 2011

It currently takes 90 minutes to transmit high-resolution images from Mars, but NASA would like to dramatically reduce that time to just minutes. A new optical communications system that NASA plans to demonstrate ...

Recommended for you

Titan offers clues to atmospheres of hazy planets

2 hours ago

When hazy planets pass across the face of their star, a curious thing happens. Astronomers are not able to see any changes in the range of light coming from the star and planet system.

Having fun with the equation of time

3 hours ago

If you're like us, you might've looked at a globe of the Earth in elementary school long before the days of Google Earth and wondered just what that strange looking figure eight thing on its side was.

The source of the sky's X-ray glow

22 hours ago

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

User comments : 0