Optical communication has already been tested in Earth orbit and on the Moon. However, this was the first time such a thing had been done from deep space.
NASA has set a new record with the Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment, when it managed to transmit data via optical communication from a distance of 16 million kilometers. The goal of the project is to establish smooth and fast communication during deep space missions in the future, writes Interesting Engineering.
The near-infrared signal was picked up by the Hale Telescope at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego. The signal came from about forty times the Earth-Moon distance.
DSCO is part of the Psyché mission, which recently launched to explore the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The aim of the experiment is to achieve orders of magnitude faster data transmission than the spaceships use today to communicate. Although radio and near-infrared communication also use electromagnetic signals to transmit data, the latter compresses the data into much narrower waves, so that the ground station can receive more data at once.
During the experiment, the Psyche spacecraft, which is heading towards the aforementioned asteroid belt, sends a large amount of data to Earth. The first data package arrived on November 14. Trudy Kortesthe head of NASA’s Washington center, says the rapid transfer of data could help us one day send humans to Mars.
Optical communication has already been tested by engineers in Earth orbit and on the Moon. However, this was the first time such a thing had been done from deep space.
The thing requires amazing precision: according to NASA, it’s as much as trying to shine a light on a moving coin 1.6 km away with a laser pointer. In addition, it should be noted that while the laser light is traveling, the planet and the spacecraft also change their position, so the transmitter and receiver must be constantly tuned for accurate data transmission, adds hvg.