NASA beams "Hello, world!" video from space via laser (w/ Video)

Jun 09, 2014 by Rachel Kraft

(Phys.org) —NASA successfully beamed a high-definition video 260 miles from the International Space Station to Earth Thursday using a new laser communications instrument.

Transmission of "Hello, World!" as a video message was the first 175-megabit communication for the Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS), a technology demonstration that allows NASA to test methods for communication with future spacecraft using higher bandwidth than radio waves.

"The International Space Station is a test bed for a host of technologies that are helping us increase our knowledge of how we operate in space and enable us to explore even farther into the solar system," said Sam Scimemi, International Space Station division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Using the to investigate ways we can improve communication rates with spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit is another example of how the orbital complex serves as a stepping stone to human deep space exploration."

Optical communication tools like OPALS use focused laser energy to reach data rates between 10 and 1,000 times higher than current space communications, which rely on radio portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Because the space station orbits Earth at 17,500 mph, transmitting data from the space station to Earth requires extremely precise targeting. The process can be equated to a person aiming a laser pointer at the end of a human hair 30 feet away and keeping it there while walking.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

To achieve this extreme precision during Thursday's demonstration, OPALS locked onto a laser beacon emitted by the Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory ground station at the Table Mountain Observatory in Wrightwood, California, and began to modulate the beam from its 2.5-watt, 1,550-nanometer laser to transmit the video. The entire transmission lasted 148 seconds and reached a maximum data transmission rate of 50 megabits per second. It took OPALS 3.5 seconds to transmit each copy of the "Hello World!" video message, which would have taken more than 10 minutes using traditional downlink methods.

"It's incredible to see this magnificent beam of light arriving from our tiny payload on the space station," said Matt Abrahamson, OPALS mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "We look forward to experimenting with OPALS over the coming months in hopes that our findings will lead to optical communications capabilities for future deep space exploration missions."

The OPALS Project Office is based at JPL, where the instrument was built. OPALS arrived to the space station April 20 aboard SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft and is slated to run for a prime mission of 90 days.

Explore further: International Space Station to beam video via laser back to Earth

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA's OPALS to beam data from space via laser

Jul 11, 2013

(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 ...

Laser-powered farewell to Moon mission

Apr 28, 2014

(Phys.org) —Just before NASA's latest Moon mission ended last week, an ESA telescope received laser signals from the spacecraft, achieving data speeds like those used by many to watch movies at home via ...

Recommended for you

NASA's Webb Telescope mirror tripod in action (Video)

2 hours ago

Setting up NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's secondary mirror in space will require special arms that resemble a tripod. NASA recently demonstrated that test in a NASA cleanroom and it was documented in ...

Iridium flares captured in real time by astrophotographer

10 hours ago

There are so many fun sights to see in the sky that are pure astronomical magic. And then there are the spectacular human-created sights. One of those sights is watching satellites from the Iridium constellation ...

Is Phobos doomed?

10 hours ago

"All these worlds are yours except Europa, attempt no landing there."

User comments : 0

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.