May 19, 2024

NASA receives the message via a laser beam from a distance of 226 million kilometers

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NASA telescope receives a message from space that traveled a distance of 226 million kilometers. It's not about the content at all.

Palomar – Distances in space are unimaginably large – and it takes a long time to send data from distant space missions back to Earth. But this could change. NASA is currently testing a new way to communicate over long distances in space. Instead of using a radio-frequency system, data can also be transmitted using an infrared laser, as shown by NASA's DSOC experiment, located on the Psyche space probe, which is on its way to the metallic asteroid Psyche of the same name.

On the Psyche flight, the DSOC experiment sent data back to Earth via optical communication several times – first test data from 16 million kilometers away, then cat video from 31 million kilometers away. NASA has now conducted another communications test – from an incredible distance of 226 million kilometers from Earth. And indeed: this data, which DSOC had previously received from the “Psyche” space probe, also arrived – and more quickly than expected.

NASA's DSOC experiment sends data back to Earth via a laser beam

“We downloaded about 10 minutes of duplicate spacecraft data during its flyby on April 8,” explains Meera Srinivasan, DSOC project operations manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “This is an important milestone for the project because it demonstrates how optical communications can be linked to the spacecraft’s high-frequency communications system,” the researcher emphasized in a statement. notice.

A NASA space probe sent data to Earth using a laser beam. (Avatar) © IMAGO/xunderworldx

The laser communications technology used aims to transmit data from deep space 10 to 100 times faster than the radio frequency systems currently in use. In previous tests, the DSOC trial showed that it is capable of transmitting data to the ground at a maximum rate of 267 megabits per second (Mbps) – roughly the same speed as broadband Internet. The spacecraft is now seven times farther from Earth, reducing the data rate, as expected.

However, transfer rates are still much higher than with current technologies. Future researchers on Mars will be happy if data transfers to and from Earth become faster in the future.

The data rate drops significantly over a distance of 226 million km

In the test conducted on April 8, DSOC was able to achieve a maximum data rate of 25 Mbps – much lower than in the previous test. However, one of the goals of the experiment was to demonstrate a data rate of 1 Mbps over a distance of 226 million kilometers – and the current result is much higher.

How does visual communication work?

The DSOC experiment is on board the Psyche space probe and is moving further and further away from Earth. A near-infrared laser beam containing test data is sent to the Hale Telescope in Palomar, California. But before that, the ground-based telescope sends a laser beam into space, which the DSOC experiment uses to target its target. Only then will communication begin.

“We've learned a lot about how well we can push the system when the sky is clear, even though storms can sometimes disrupt operations,” says Ryan Rogalin, head of the project's receiving electronics division. Communications: Requires largely clear skies while high-frequency communications work in most weather conditions.

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NASA is including two additional systems in the communications experiment

In order to minimize this problem, NASA included two other systems in the project in addition to the Hale telescope at Palomar that had been used from the beginning: the Goldstone antenna from NASA's Deep Space Network and a detector at Table Mountain, California. Their purpose is to ensure that at least one system can receive the signal from deep space – even in bad weather. (unpaid bill)