NASA is spending roughly $175 million on three new technology demonstration projects, one of which is aiming to take HD data streaming to Mars. The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will explore reliable optical communications technologies that could boost data rates between Earth and deep space by a couple of orders of magnitude.
The premise is simple enough: for the same mass, size, and power load an optical communications system can provide drastically higher data rates compared to standard radio frequency (RF) systems. But it also calls for a trickier setup, requiring a clear line of sight between transmitter and receiver and considerations for variables like weather and atmospheric conditions.
The LCRD aims to demonstrate that a near earth space terminal (in this case a satellite owned by Loral Space & Communications, a partner in the project) can maintain optical communications with ground stations on Earth (one existing station in California and a couple more that will be built) and to test work around for problems that engineers foresee, like the aforementioned weather problem.
Such laser-based data transfers could increase data rates by anywhere from 10 to 100 times. Says NASA via press release:
As an example, at the current limit of 6 Mbps for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), it takes approximately 90 minutes to transmit a single HiRISE high resolution image back to earth. In some instances, this bottleneck can limit science return. An equivalent MRO mission outfitted with an optical communications transmitter would have a capacity to transmit data back to earth at 100 Mbps or more, reducing the single image transmission time to on order of 5 minutes.
Eventually, the agency hopes to up those speeds such that data transfer speeds from places like the moon and Mars will be super-fast--perhaps fast enough to stream HD footage from the Martian surface, for instance. In the meantime, LCRD will develop the technology-sharing framework and a system of operational standards so private industry can get to work building the optical comms of the future.
By the way, the other two demo projects are pretty awesome as well: A space-based atomic clock to enable a kind of celestial GPS, and a mission-capable solar sail. More via the link below.
Beam me up to Mars, Scotty!
So why cant they have a satellite that receives optical transmissions from wherever, converts it into radio frequency, and broadcasts it back down to earth thus eliminating the earthly weather problem!
Best of both worlds
@bjorn, if we had no weather, there be no life and that would be a great problem. A nation could control weather, then who decides what the weather should be and how much rain you or I or anyone receives. Perhaps a war could be fought, by depriving a neighbor of its rain or maybe a series of hurricanes can attack a country. If one country could invent weather control, then eventually another country would invent it too. Finally we have many countries all trying to control the weather and having their own ideas of what the weather should be. I GASP the actual being able to control the weather control.
Did you even read the article or what i posted
i didnt say anything remotely close to "lets control weather" or 'lets get rid of weather"
I was commenting on using the advantages of both communications systems in conjunction to create a more efficient network
@bjorn, lol, weeeee, i sure pulled your string, you yo-yo!
@bjorn, "...... thus eliminating the earthly weather problem!" Weather on earth is not a problem and you seem to have a desire to elimnate weather from earth. Why do you want to eliminate weather from earth their Mr. Bjorn? Don't you like the rain? Read your own sentence.
i think you should reread this
@bjorn, don't feed the trolls.
but theyre so cute!
@bjorn, you do not really have any type of sense of tolerance or sense of humor, do you? You wording of your sentence was poorly structured and I made a comment with it and exagerated. I was joking. Get over it and stop being so serious, sheesh. Have a nice day and smile! ;) Oh, yes often I miss spell things and use bad grammar. I even use word to check my spelling and still I end up spelling things wrong, lol... bjorn, you need to laugh a little...
What is even harder is to attempt to be funny through written language and fail miserably at it, then expect others to read between the lines of a poorly written funny comment. It's the reason why writers sometimes spend months writing a single paragraph.
By the way, I was being funny too. . . . Get it?
@menoc, I have read communication is largely physically express. I suppose my font fell flat on the floor in my comments. Any ways, I was not attacking or making fun of bjorn, I was just playing with the sentence he wrote.
On a different note, this is probably one of the best things NASA could do to remake its image as a forward thinking agency (I'm still pretty peeved about the whole "quasi-constellation" program going on at NASA).
Just image . . . send a few Boston Dynamics Petman bots to mars and with this type of laser communications it would be . . . "LIVE FROM MARS, IT'S . . . ."
I've said it before . . . NASA needs to get out of the launch business and do more Research & Development. NASA's role as a space agency should change, it should be more research, deep space robotic missions, and development of "NEW TECHNOLOGIES" that will move us, as a species, forward towards the future.
Inspire us NASA . . . . . 'cause the 70's and 80's and 90's are over!
I hear what you're saying but the whole point of this is to increase the speed throughout, not necessarily to have uninterrupted communications.
Example . . . if you go to LEO with radio than you'd be slowing communications going up, then you'd be speeding it up again from LEO to Mars, then slowing it down again from LEO to the ground on the way back. The whole point is to have a high speed communications point-to-point and to avoid the weather problem through other means.
LOL . . . Well, if you spent $22,87.00 for an iPad then you're a FOOL!
You do understand that a comma(,) is not a decimal point, right? Right.
I HATE SPAMMERS.
Youre right i misunderstood how the system works
The system allows more data to be communicated at once.
i thought they were decreasing the time it took for the signal to travel through space and for some reason i forgot the numero uno constant ( c ) isnt gonna change for us.
its been a long day
Space Lasers: Wave of the Future?
Mark K. Anderson 07.31.02
"....Space-based technology may be getting smaller, faster and better all the time -- but the modems that satellites use are not keeping up.
Right now radio waves carry nearly all space-to-ground communication. And even for higher throughput applications -- such as the rich images and data that the Hubble Space Telescope continuously streams back to Earth -- radio waves currently suffice.
But radio is increasingly becoming a bottleneck for next-generation space applications such as the Hubble's successors and upcoming unmanned planetary missions. This problem, says a group of Australian and American scientists, can be solved by switching from radio dishes to near-infrared lasers.
The solution may also have commercial applications by offering wireless data transmission speeds that are unattainable with radio waves.
Most of the laser technology has already been developed for fiber optics. So configuring it for spaceborne missions should only require some new engineering....."
I think the article shouldn't use the word 'speed' or its derivatives... Radio is light, travels the same speed as visible light....
.... we're talking about bandwidth... not speed.
In the graphic they don't appear to show a good grasp for where White Sands (Missile Range) is. It kind of makes it look like they think it's in california or maybe baja, mexico when it's actually in New Mexico. As far as the laser communication system, a laser isn't always affected by weather, say if it's operating in the infrared spectrum.
The laser system is used because it has far higher frequency, and therefore higher data-carrying capacity than radio. However a laser system broadcasting all the way from mars would likely be impractical. They are only using a short range link from Earth to the satellite to improve throughput on that end.
They'd have to set up the same infrastructure on the red planet in order for it to be an efficient two way transmission. I believe this application starting here on Earth would be for the initial Mars mission. Although, setting up the infrastructure for laser transmissions before we get there would be all the more beneficial once the team gets there.
BTW, that is a poor depiction of White Sands. This graphic was obviously made by some one from California whom would draw all reference points toward their own point of origin and not depict anything to proper (let alone accurate) scale.
gonna need a relay or 2 for when those pesky objects block our line of sight with mars. ya kbnow when earth is on one side of the sun and mars on the other....or the moon is in the way...
just my 2 cents worth
All of this technology is fantastic, no doubt, yet I still feel a tinge of disappointment. Not for what these impressive developments will do for man as a species, but for how we go about doing them. Individually. Each government/agency following it's own path. Although I understand how attempting many (MANY) technologies at once will increase the chance of stumbling across a world changing technology, wouldn't it be better, if not more efficient, to work as a team on this oh so important endeavor. Imagine, the first humans on Mars are not representative of the most wealthy nation/agency, but of the entire contributing earth. But, most likely, the first humans on mars will be in the form of a team of either all Americans or all Chinese.
This new communications will allow for us to drill for oil on Mars and elsewhere like Titan. Robotic controlled drilling operations very similar to subsea operations where everything is robotic controlled. What is the round trip transmission time from Earth to Mars?
This article is a bit hazy (pun intended). In brief:
1. Equip new space probes (Mars, moon, etc..) with optical comm equipment, which is lighter and higher capacity than RF gear. The article mentioned "orders of magnitude..," but example given is about one order of magnitude: 90 mins (at 6 MPBS) of transmission via RF, down to 5 minutes via laser. (about 100 MBPS))
2. Align the satellite (stationary, above earth, one assumes - using orbiting satellites seems impractical) with the beam of light broadcast by remote device. This is not quite as hard as imagined, since the laser light will spread out to quite an extent.
3. Then...the key question... (as brought out by Bjorn, above): Why can't they use regular RF to send info down to earth?? (avoiding weather and much, much tighter alignnment/positioning problems.) dunno...
4. The article seems to ignore a key problem, which (it seems to me..) is the need to continually orient the receiver satellite as a probe is sent to target. What if two or more probes are being sent out (i.e., one to Mars, one to Venus, for example..)? Or??? is the light beam as big as the earth?? Certainly not during the early part of a probe flight. Hmmmmm questions, questions...