Optical PAyload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) launched to space station

April 22, 2014 by Susan Anderson
Flight Engineer Steve Swanson sent this image of the SpaceX Dragon grappled by Canadarm2, a robotic arm on the exterior of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

When the SpaceX-3 cargo resupply mission launched to the International Space Station April 18, an experiment designed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., was among the cargo headed to space.

The experiment, Optical PAyload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS), will test the potential for using a laser to transmit data to Earth from space. Instead of being broadcast on , data is packaged onto beams of laser light and pointed to a receiver station on the ground. Radio wave transmissions are limited by the speed they can transfer data, but beaming information packages with lasers can greatly increase the amount of information transmitted over the same period of time.

SpaceX-3 is NASA's third contracted resupply mission to the space station by U.S. company SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif. SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft launched atop the company's Falcon rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3:25 p.m. EDT.

SpaceX developed its Dragon capsule, the only cargo spacecraft currently servicing the space station with the capability to return cargo back to Earth, with NASA and now successfully has completed three missions to the orbiting outpost. Expedition 39 crew members captured the SpaceX-3 Dragon using the station's robotic arm at 7:06 a.m. Sunday, April 20. The capsule is scheduled to remain attached to the station until May 18. It then will return to Earth and splash down in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California. It will return samples from scientific investigations currently underway aboard the .

Explore further: SpaceX's next cargo mission to space station is Mar 16

Related Stories

Easter morning delivery for space station

April 20, 2014

Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The shipment arrived Sunday morning via the SpaceX company's Dragon cargo capsule.

Recommended for you

Spitzer Space Telescope begins 'Beyond' phase

August 26, 2016

Celebrating the spacecraft's ability to push the boundaries of space science and technology, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope team has dubbed the next phase of its journey "Beyond."

NASA's Juno to soar closest to Jupiter this Saturday

August 26, 2016

This Saturday at 5:51 a.m. PDT, (8:51 a.m. EDT, 12:51 UTC) NASA's Juno spacecraft will get closer to the cloud tops of Jupiter than at any other time during its prime mission. At the moment of closest approach, Juno will ...

Rosetta captures comet outburst

August 25, 2016

In unprecedented observations made earlier this year, Rosetta unexpectedly captured a dramatic comet outburst that may have been triggered by a landslide.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.