NASA will launch a laser communication relay demonstration today, establishing the agency’s first end-to-end laser relay system. The space is fast
NASA will launch a laser communication relay demonstration today, establishing the agency’s first end-to-end laser relay system.
Space is fast becoming the ultimate highland in the superpower competition between China, Russia and the United States. Laser communication (LC) is an important military and civilian technology that allows rapid transmission and reception of information from two geographically distant points. These systems can increase data transfer rates from a few kilobytes per second. second to gigabytes per second, and are extremely secure information delivery systems. Satellites, such as the one launched today, serve as the main relay station between the two sites – either ground-based or space-based.
NASA’s launch today is of a civilian nature, aimed at proving the feasibility of a laser-based system that connects California with Hawaii. NASA plans to use the technology to develop the equivalent of a fiber-optic information highway in the sky that could revolutionize information sharing for the United States and its allies. If successful, this test will set the stage for an improved communications system from the US Department of Defense based on the technology to combat China’s own LC systems. In the short term, keep an eye out for companies like SpaceX that may seek to use LC systems to increase data transfer rates for commercial purposes.
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