. 24/7 Space News .
New ground station brings laser communications closer to reality
by Matthew D. Peters for GSFC News
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Aug 24, 2020

Illustration of the LCRD payload transmitting an optical signal to OGS-2 in Haleakala, Hawaii.

Optical communications, transmitting data using infrared lasers, has the potential to help NASA return more data to Earth than ever. The benefits of this technology to exploration and Earth science missions are huge. In support of a mission to demonstrate this technology, NASA recently completed installing its newest optical ground station in Haleakala, Hawaii.

The state-of-the-art ground station, called Optical Ground Station 2 (OGS-2), is the second of two optical ground stations to be built that will collect data transmitted to Earth by NASA's Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD). Launching in early 2021, this trailblazing mission will be the linchpin in NASA's first operational optical communications relay system.

While other NASA efforts have used optical communications, this will be NASA's first relay system using optical entirely, giving NASA the opportunity to test this method of communications and learn valuable lessons from its implementation. Relay satellites create critical communications links between science and exploration missions and Earth, enabling these missions to transmit important data to scientists and mission managers back home.

While optical communications provides missions with many advantages, it can be disrupted by atmospheric interference such as clouds. OGS-2 was chosen to be located in Hawaii because of its clear skies, but bad weather can still happen. On a cloudy day, LCRD would have to wait before transmitting data. In order to avoid delays, services may be transferred to another ground station developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory; OGS-1, located in Table Mountain, California.

To monitor cloud coverage and determine if OGS-1 is needed, commercial partner Northrop Grumman provided an atmospheric monitoring station that observes weather conditions at the site. This monitoring station runs nearly autonomously 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

LCRD and OGS-2 will demonstrate the numerous capabilities of optical, or laser, communications for use as a communications relay. Optical communications provides significant benefits for missions, including data rate increases of 10 to 100 times more than comparable radio frequency communications systems. This increase means higher resolution data for missions, giving scientists a much more detailed look at our planet and solar system.

Benefits also include decreased power needs, size and weight, meaning longer battery life, more room for additional instruments on spacecraft and potential cost savings at launch due to lighter payloads.

"LCRD and its ground stations will demonstrate optical communications as a relay, which means missions will be able to transmit data from points in their orbit without direct line of sight of the ground stations," said Dave Israel, LCRD principal investigator at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "In 2013, NASA's Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration set a space communications bandwidth record from the Moon using optical communications with a system requiring direct line of sight."

NASA's Space Network manages OGS-2's integration, test and operations and will eventually operate LCRD. The Space Network oversees a constellation of NASA communications satellites, known as Tracking and Data Relay Satellites, and their associated ground stations, which includes the White Sands Complex in White Sands, New Mexico. The network provides continuous communications services to missions in low-Earth orbit through radio frequency. While radio frequency will continue to have utility in space communications well into the future, the growing communications needs of many missions necessitates greater data rates.

OGS-2's installation was a collaborative effort between government, commercial and academic institutions. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory provided the test and diagnostics terminal, which consists of three parts: an optical subsystem, digital subsystem and controller electronics. The three components send, receive and process optical signals to and from LCRD.

Optical communications, through the development of LCRD and its two ground terminals, could have far-reaching impacts for future knowledge of Earth and our solar system. Spacecraft equipped with optical communications systems will effectively allow enhanced data, such as high-resolution video, to be brought back down to Earth faster, thanks to increased data rates. With this data, scientists will get a closer look at our universe with the potential to uncover exciting new discoveries.

The Space Network and LCRD are both managed out of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Programmatic oversight for the Space Network is provided by the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program within NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. LCRD is funded by SCaN and the Space Technology Mission Directorate's Technology Demonstration Missions program based at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Related Links
NASA's Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD)
Space Technology News - Applications and Research

Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5+ Billed Monthly

paypal only
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

Laser beams reflected between Earth and Moon boost science
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Aug 12, 2020
Dozens of times over the last decade NASA scientists have launched laser beams at a reflector the size of a paperback novel about 240,000 miles (385,000 kilometers) away from Earth. They announced, in collaboration with their French colleagues, that they received signal back for the first time, an encouraging result that could enhance laser experiments used to study the physics of the universe. The reflector NASA scientists aimed for is mounted on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), a spacecra ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Moonstruck 'aroma sculptor' builds scent from space

A QandA on the Demo-2 mission

Power, bones, bubbles and other Weightless action on the Space Station

Roscosmos teases names of next year's ISS tourist group flight

NASA's Green Propellant Infusion Mission nears completion

Skyrora's Skylark Micro rocket launches from Iceland

Under pressure, nontoxic salt-based propellant performs well

Sierra Nevada aims to complete Dream Chaser space plane in March

Sustained planetwide storms may have filled lakes, rivers on ancient mars

Deep learning will help future Mars rovers go farther, faster, and do more science

NASA establishes Board to initially review Mars sample return plans

Ingenuity Mars Helicopter recharges its batteries in flight

China seeks payload ideas for mission to moon, asteroid

China marching to Mars for humanity's better shared future

From the Moon to Mars: China's long march in space

Tianwen 1 probe to soon blast off for Mars

Satellite constellations could hinder astronomical research, scientists warn

ESA astronauts are flat out training

New UK space projects to boost global sustainable development receive cash boost

Kleos to launch second satellite cluster on SpaceX Falcon 9

New ground station brings laser communications closer to reality

Nellis AFB, Nev., opens pilots' virtual training center

Spacepath Communications wins large order for solid-state RF power amplifiers

NOAA selects Orbit Logic for enterprise scheduling

Pristine space rock offers NASA scientists peek at evolution of life's building blocks

The most sensitive instrument in the search for life in space comes from Bern

Microbes living on air a global phenomenon

Hundred cool worlds found near the sun

The Sun May Have Started Its Life with a Binary Companion

Ganymede covered by giant crater

Huge ring-like structure on Ganymede's surface may have been caused by violent impact

Inside the ice giants of space

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.