NASA’s new way of communication in space via LLCD

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Till date NASA was using RF (radio frequency) communication for sending and receiving signals in space. But now it has got success in another new way which is far better and efficient way of communication. RF communication has some limitations. With the change in time demand for large number of data increased rapidly. Due to boundations in RF communication there was a need of another way of transferring data which can meet out the continuously increasing demand of huge data transfers.

Hence NASA and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) scientists developed the novice method of transmitting and receiving data from space. They have used LLCD (Lunar Laser Communication Demonstrator). This innovation has created a miracle in the field of communication which will enhance communication abilities like 3D video transmission or enhanced image resolution and many more.

Actually LLCD is a short-duration experiment and the predecessor to NASA’s long-duration demonstration, the LCRD (Laser Communications Relay Demonstration). LCRD is a part of the agency’s TDMP (Technology Demonstration Missions Program), which is working to design cross-cutting technology able to operate in the distinct atmosphere of space. It is scheduled to launch in year 2017.

LLCD uses a pulsed laser beam to send data from earth to moon which are approximately 239,000 miles away from each other. The signal was sent at the quickest speed (till date) of 622 Mbps. The rate of transmission is record in itself. LLCD is a 2 way duplex communication system which employs LASER rather than RF signals for transmission of data. It established an error-free communication link and uploaded the data at the speed of 20 Mbps which was transmitted from primary ground station located in New Mexico to the lunar spacecraft which is presently working.

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NASA’s deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation (SCaN), Washington, Badri Younes announced that LLCD is the primary step towards the next genre space communication technology. He told that with successful completion of demonstration of transmission of signals via LLCD they are determined to enhance the better use of this new technique.

Don Cornwell, LLCD manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt conveyed that the aim of LLCD was to verify the appropriate link in the transmission and boost the faith in the technology for future operations. The communication completed by LLCD is almost five times faster than the current rate. Cornwell disclosed that the experiment gave much superior results than they expected in first 4 days.

Lasers can give a new direction and height to space communication and make some alterations in coming future in the design of spacecraft. Present spacecrafts have large dish antennas to catch the RF signal. But as we know Lasers have shorter wavelength i.e. they are 10,000 times shorter than RF. Thus implies that a spacecraft having LLCD will supply much more data transfer than recent RF system. As per NASA reports LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer whose main mission is to study the way moon dust moves across the lunar surface through the very thin atmosphere) spaceship which will carry this laser experiment will take about 639 hours to download an average length HD movie on utilizing normal S-band communication whereas LLCD will take less than 8 minutes time for the same.

N.M. MIT laboratory fellow Don Boroson from MITs Lincoln Lab in Massachusetts felt that the ground terminal will not do such searching for moon probe but it pointed out accurately. The rocket has a detector which scans a signal from the ground terminal, to tell the moon probe where to focus for the laser-encoded information. So the experiment got its first victory in correctly finding LADEE moon probe. Now the LADEE researchers have control over the spaceship. They are using its sensors for forth coming future research. After this will be over the laser communication experiment team will get more chances to validate and explore other options of LLCD. This in turn will support the group to verify the communication in various conditions and situations.

The next big step for laser space communication will happen soon. In year 2016, the LCRD will catch a hike into space on communications satellite and by year 2017 the LCRD will start sending 1.25 Gbps of information in coded form. This coded message will be sent from ground station to the satellite located in space and bounce back to another terrestrial earth’s ground station. This project is aimed to be in the orbit of two to five years while under operation of entire 24 hours of the day.

Let us hope to get much more advanced functions of LLCD so that much more exploration can be done with the help of laser space communication. Not only this fast communication links could be set up and we could wish that in coming future it will be beneficial for our coming generations.