Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD)

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    In News

    • NASA launched its new Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD).
      • It is NASA’s first-ever laser communications system — from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

    What is Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD)?

    • About:
      • It will help NASA to test optical communication in space.
      • LCRD is a technology demonstration that will pave the way for future optical communications missions.
      • The LCRD payload is hosted onboard the US Department of Defense’s Space Test Program Satellite 6 (STPSat-6).
      • It will be in a geosynchronous orbit, over 35,000km above Earth.
      • Currently, most NASA spacecraft use radio frequency communications to send data. Optical communications will help increase the bandwidth 10 to 100 times more than radio frequency systems.
    • Working:
      • LCRD has two optical terminals: One to receive data from a user spacecraft, and the other to transmit data to ground stations. 
      • The modems will translate the digital data into laser signals. This will then be transmitted via encoded beams of light. These capabilities make LCRD NASA’s first two-way, end-to-end optical relay.

    Advantages over Laser System

    • Laser communications and radio waves use different wavelengths of light
    • The laser uses infrared light and has a shorter wavelength than radio waves. This will help the transmission of more data in a short time
      • It would take roughly nine weeks to transmit a completed map of Mars back to Earth with current radio frequency systems. With lasers, we can accelerate that to about nine days.
    • Optical communications systems are smaller in size, weight, and require less power compared with radio instruments
    • A smaller size means more room for science instruments. Less weight means a less expensive launch. Less power means less drain on the spacecraft’s batteries. 

    Source: IE