NASA is betting on lasers to improve the dialogue between space and Earth

NASA is betting on lasers to improve the dialogue between space and Earth

USA space

Miami, Dec. 3 (EFE). NASA will launch a new laser-based technology into orbit this weekend, which seeks to revolutionize communications and data transmission between space and Earth for a future manned return. to the Moon in 2025, which will pave the way for Mars.

Javier Ocasio, Puerto Rican, who led the creation of the so-called Laser Transmitter Display System (LCRD, in English), which is scheduled to be launched on a rocket on Sunday, told Efe that a satellite would be “critical” to streamlining communications that currently use radio frequencies.

said the director of integration and testing at the LCRD mission.

He explained, for example, that sending a complete map of Mars to Earth with radio frequency technology, which is effective but limited, would take about nine weeks, while using a laser it would take about nine days.

The scientist explained that the satellite will be transferred on Friday to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, in Central Florida, where it plans to launch on Sunday morning, with a two-hour window starting at 04.04 local time (09.04). GMT).

The satellite is part of the cargo carried by a ship propelled by a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 missile that will take off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Ocasio explained that once it takes off from Earth, the satellite will take about eight hours to reach the geosynchronous orbit in which it will remain, at an altitude of about 35,400 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.

He specified that it was an orbit chosen to facilitate communication with the first two ground stations already built, in California and Hawaii, to which two more space stations would be added, one on the International Space Station (ISS, in English) in 2022, and another later as part of the Artemis lunar program .

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“The idea is that in the future there will be more communication networks in deep space,” Puerto Rico said.

He added that this network anticipates a great challenge in the future to coordinate the retransmission of information between different earth and space stations with the LCRD satellite, which will eventually have to be regulated by governments.

Optical fiber, but without cable

Laser communications will allow 10 to 100 times more to be sent back to Earth than radio systems, which means they can send images, videos and data of planetary surfaces and the state of satellites in more detail and at a higher resolution.

Ocasio compares the advances the Internet made on Earth when fiber optics began to be used, accelerating it.

It’s the same thing in space, he said, with the difference that there’s no cable, but light waves.

“Radio frequency waves can carry a certain amount of information, and a focused beam of light can carry more information per unit time, so it gives you the impression that you are going to send information faster, but in reality what you are doing is sending more information per second.”

With NASA looking to return to the Moon by 2025 through the Artemis program and stay there longer, the scientist said the agency expects a greater volume of information and therefore a greater demand for improved and streamlined communications.

Once in orbit, Ocasio said, the LCRD, designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will be “in operation” for the holidays, to prioritize other satellites.

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From that moment on, tests will begin, which will be expanded when the station is installed on the International Space Station next year.

Ocasio also explained that these LCRD infrared systems weigh less, are smaller and use less energy than radio waves, allowing, among other things, more space for research instruments and less weight to launch missiles.

One of the challenges she had to overcome in building the LCRD, Ocasio said, was the weather conditions in Earth’s atmosphere, “if it’s not enough, the signal can be damaged a little bit” because it doesn’t go inside a cable connecting it.

“It’s a beam of light that has to pass through the clouds of the atmosphere, but once the communication is in space, we no longer have that problem,” he said.

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