Officials at the American space agency announce that a two-day review of the new Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) technology has just been completed successfully.
Though it may sound like a mouthful, what this system basically does is ensure laser-based communications between rovers, orbiters, landers and space probes, on one hand, and their respective Mission Controls, on the other.
The real amazing thing about all this is that the system NASA wants to build will be able to carry massive amounts of data through space, while using less power than current systems. Radio-based communications, which are currently the norm, transmit only a limited amount of data.
The first time the new system will be tested in real life will be in 2017, when a demonstrator will be launched aboard a Loral commercial satellite. The device will test data transfer between the spacecraft and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and White Sands Facility (WSC).
The project is being coordinated by experts at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
(GSFC), in Greenbelt, Maryland. The development team also includes experts from the Lincoln Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), JPL and Space Systems/Loral.
Members from a number of research groups at the GSFC were in charge of conducting the 48-hour review of the progress made by the LCRD team to date. Expert Jesse Leitner was a co-chair of the review board.
“The board concluded that the LCRD concept review was a resounding success. They met all review success criteria and the LCRD team is ready to proceed to the next design review,” he said.
“The team was very focused to insure we had addressed every concern about the technological ability to do this mission. We are most excited that the review board agreed that we are ready to proceed with preliminary mission design activities,” adds Michael Weiss.
The expert holds an appointment as the manager of the LCRD project at GSFC. He says that laser-based communications will make data transfer rates 10 to 100 times faster than currently possible.
The development of this advanced communications system is part of the larger Technology Demonstrations Missions Program at NASA.