A laser that will beam from the International Space Station to Earth is scheduled to travel to the station in a rocket taking off from Florida on April 18.
The Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science package (shown above in an artist’s conception) will test the potential for using a laser to transmit data to Earth from space. Scientific instruments used in space missions increasingly transmit high rates of data, such as high-definition video streams. Optical communications, also known as “lasercomm,” is an emerging technology where data is sent via laser beams. This offers the promise of much higher data rates than what is achievable with current radio-frequency transmissions, NASA said.
The package was conceived, developed, built and tested at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, by engineers in the early stage of their careers in order to gain experience building space hardware and developing an end-to-end communication system.
For more on the laser experiment, see the NASA press release.