NASA Partners To Create Laser Relays

Artist’s rendering of the Optical Communications System bringing laser communications capabilities to the moon aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft during Artemis II | Image by NASA

NASA has begun working with small businesses to produce laser communications systems to be used in future space endeavors, including the Artemis program.

NASA announced on Wednesday that it is working with small businesses to create “scalable, affordable, and advanced” laser communication systems. The agency claims that this technology can provide 10 to 100 times the data rate of current radio systems and reduce communication times from weeks to days.

Systems made in partnership between NASA and these businesses include the Basestation Optical Laser Terminal, a four-channel laser unit made by Fibertek Inc., which will enable communications during the upcoming Artemis II mission.

“Known as the Orion Artemis II Optical Communications System, the Artemis II demonstration will use laser communications to transmit high-resolution images and video of the lunar region to two ground stations. One of the two ground stations, located at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is the Low-Cost Optical Terminal,” reads a press release from NASA.

Officials believe that the Low-Cost Optical Terminal will lay the groundwork for more ground-based stations.

“Laser communications, focusing on direct-to-Earth links, is a maturing technology that is essential for NASA to meet its future communications capacity and navigation needs. As we mature any technology, establishing and supporting a healthy domestic supply chain is vital,” said Dr. Jason Mitchell, director of the Space Communications and Navigation’s (SCaN) Advanced Communications and Navigation Technologies Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“American small businesses play a key role in that chain, and our engagement with Fibertek Inc. is an example of this process.”

NASA hopes to use these new technologies to pave the way for communications as it sends humans back to the moon and for future endeavors.

“NASA’s investment in the development of this technology is a win-win-win for the agency and Fibertek, as well as any other future system integrators or developers that want to use laser communications technology,” said Nang Pham, SCaN small business project manager at NASA Glenn.

Support our non-profit journalism

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Continue reading on the app
Expand article