In its next missions, NASA will study everything related to this new technology. Laser communications with the Earth at different distances will be tested to see the possibilities and capacity that this novelty can bring.
How many times a day can we complain about the speed of the Internet? Stops in downloads or videos are common circumstances in our daily life. However, can you imagine being able to send data at only a few megabits per second?
This is the transmission capacity that NASA currently has with the spacecrafts that are on a mission. This form of communication is based on radio waves, which are the best over long distances. However, the capacity is minimal, so the arrival and sending of information is much slower and more expensive to perform.
In this context, we are probably facing a great change in data transmission by NASA. We could say that this is the change to broadband that was made on Earth some time ago, and that now reaches space. This new technology will be based on the communication of information by means of lasers. These optical communications will increase the speed up to 100 times.
What does this mean? Data, research, discoveries or scientific developments will be able to be brought together much faster. The distance covered by this type of transmission is also greater, something that favors the new NASA projects, which constantly seek to overcome the already known limits.
Radio vs. Laser
Both technologies can travel at the speed of light. However, lasers are capable of doing so as well, but with a much higher bandwidth. That is, with a greater amount of information than the capacity of radio.
According to AbiBiswas, supervisor of the Optical Communications Systems group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, laser technology is ideal for powering downlink communications from deep space. It will eventually be allowed for applications involving, for example, giving each astronaut his or her own video channel, or sending higher resolution, data-rich images faster.
Let’s take an example. MRO, the space probe installed on Mars, sends data at a speed of 6 Mbps. Let’s imagine that this device started using the new laser technology. The data sending capacity would increase to 250 Mbps.
However, not everything is advantageous, as this technology will not be perfect for all scenarios. Like radio, it can withstand any weather event, lasers are more sensitive to interference from clouds, for example.
The radio will be difficult to disappear as a method of communication
An uncertain future
The advantages of this technology are more than clear. However, there is still not all the necessary infrastructure on our planet to make this possible. Each and every earth station has to be adapted to the lasers, in addition to ensuring that in those places where these stations are located it is necessary to have a good climate.
In the next missions that NASA plans to carry out, everything related to this new technology will be studied. Laser communications with the Earth will be tested at different distances to find out the possibilities and capacity that this new technology can provide.
In any case, it seems impossible that radio technology will disappear completely. It is too well established in all NASA systems, and it works under any circumstances. However, we are waiting expectantly for the laser proposal.