Monday, August 5, 2013


NASA will be testing its Laser Communications in space and the ESA will be assisting. Inter-agency cooperation across countries surely can & will lead to the development and advances of various technologies and there has never been more of this than now; NASA & Canada on the RRM or this, NASA and the ESA for testing of the LLCD.

First it is important to understand what the LLCD is. The LLCD is a space terminal that handles high-data rate communications using laser technology and it was recently integrated onto the Lunar Atmosphere & Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE). (LADEE is a robotic mission that will gather information about surface conditions and environmental influences on the lunar dust as it orbits our moon.) Currently used is Wave Technology which is slower and subject to background “noise” caused by the Sun, pulsars, quasars, radio galaxies, and nebulas. Also Radio Waves are refracted, propagate, and a portion of the waves are lost resulting in an incomplete message. Remember the "Seven Minutes of Terror" when we didn’t know if the Curiosity had landed safely or not. With the planned laser communications we would know instantly if the rover had landed and HD pictures from space would be transferred to earth at a much greater speed.

The current mission to test the laser communications will be sending communications initiated from the LADEE/LLCD to several different ground stations: two in the US (New Mexico & California) and a third in Spain testing sending the communications at distances close to a quarter of a million. The Lunar Ground Terminal (LLGT) is made up of eight telescopes and housed in a fiberglass enclosure. It is expected to be launched from Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops facility in Virginia and the first test would follow in mid-October. It is expected that a video transmission sent via the S band taking 639 hours would be received by Earth in a mere eight minutes.

It is hard to choose which part of this is more exciting, the growth of yet an additional project with a nod to our neighbors in the ESA or the new technology being tested.

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