NASA Launches First Ever Laser Communication System

NASA launched its new Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) — the agency’s first-ever laser communications system — from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The LCRD will help the agency test optical communication in space.

Currently, most NASA spacecraft use radio frequency communications to send data. Optical communications will help increase the bandwidth 10 to 100 times more than radio frequency systems.

LCRD has two optical terminals – one to receive data from a user spacecraft, and the other to transmit data to ground stations. The modems will translate the digital data into laser signals. This will then be transmitted via encoded beams of light. These capabilities make LCRD NASA’s first two-way, end-to-end optical relay, the agency said in a release.

Laser VS radio

Laser communications and radio waves use different wavelengths of light.

Laser uses infrared light and has a shorter wavelength than radio waves. This will help the transmission of more data in a short time.