Soon, laser system to help communicate with spacecraft beyond Earth

An advanced laser system, which offers faster data speeds, is ready to get linked with spacecraft that are beyond Earth, following the conduction of a series of crucial ground tests.

Last Updated: Jul 31, 2013, 13:29 PM IST

Washington: An advanced laser system, which offers faster data speeds, is ready to get linked with spacecraft that are beyond Earth, following the conduction of a series of crucial ground tests.

Later this year, ESA`s observatory in Spain is going to use the laser to communicate with a NASA Moon orbiter.

The laboratory testing has paved the way for a live space demonstration in October, once NASA`s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer - LADEE - begins orbiting the Moon.

LADEE carries a terminal that can transmit and receive pulses of laser light. ESA`s Optical Ground Station on Tenerife will be upgraded with a complementary unit and, together with two US ground terminals, will relay data at unprecedented rates using infrared light beams at a wavelength similar to that used in fiber-optic cables on Earth.

Zoran Sodnik , manager for ESA`s Lunar Optical Communication Link project, said that the testing went as planned, and while they identified a number of issues, they will be ready for LADEE`s mid-September launch.

He said that their ground station is going to join two NASA stations communicating with the LADEE Moon mission, and they are aiming to demonstrate the readiness of optical communication for future missions to Mars or anywhere else in the Solar System.

The testing took place in July at a Zurich, Switzerland, facility owned by ESA`s industrial partner RUAG and made use of a new detector and decoding system, a ranging system and a transmitter.

The first laser link-up with LADEE is expected to be attempted four weeks after launch, around mid-October.

ANI