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Mar 27, 2017 11:48 AM EDT

NASA Develops High-Speed Space 'Internet' Using Lasers

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NASA is on the verge of developing long-term technology demonstration mission that could be the future's high-speed internet beamed from the sky.

Scheduled for launch in summer of 2019, should there be no hiccups, the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) mission, will assist the space agency the best methods to operate laser communications systems. NASA could enable connectivity at much higher data rates that will facilitate for connections between a spacecraft and Earth, such as a scientific data downlink and/or astronaut communications.

According to Steve Jurczyk, Associate Administrator of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, who leads the LCRD project, The LRCD mission is the next step in the evolution of NASA's vision in utilizing optical communications for deep space and near-Earth missions.

The technology offers data rates that are 10 to 100 times more efficient than radio frequency (RF) communications systems, NASA reported. More so, the laser communications systems hardware will be physically smaller than radio systems, which would make the spacecraft communications system to have a smaller size, weight and power requirements.

NASA's Don Cronwell says that LCRD's disruptive technology is designed to operate for many years allowing NASA to optimally exploit the new technology. Additionally, NASA aims to set this new terminal to orbit in 2021, hoping that many other Earth-orbiting NASA missions will also send up copies of it to relay their data through LCRD.

NASA's first space-bound payload will carry the LCRD equipment into geosynchronous orbit. It will include a switching unit that will route data in and out of data from two onboard optical terminals that will send the communications via laser to and from Earth. A normal radio system will also be incorporated as a fallback system.

Furthermore, NASA's team is also designing a laser terminal using LCRD for the International Space Station relaying data from the station, at a gigabit-per-second, Observer reported.

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