NASA will launch a payload in June in an effort to enable laser- or optical technology-based communications that can potentially deliver a bandwidth boost of 10 to 100 times than radio frequency equipment.
The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, or LCRD, will be carried by the primary spacecraft of the Department of Defense’s third Space Test Program mission, NASA said Saturday.
The optical module-equipped payload on STPSat-6 will lift off June 23 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, through the Atlas V 551 rocket of the United Launch Alliance.
Using infrared lasers invisible to human eyes, the LCRD will try to execute data transfer from geosynchronous orbit to Earth at a rate of 1.2 Gbps.
When the optical module is placed 22,000 miles above Earth, engineers will experiment on the data transmission process to test various operational situations and improve the tracking capabilities for actual mission performance.
The space agency also plans to use LCRD to examine the possibility of enabling laser communications for missions to the Moon and Mars in the future.
The Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is leading the LCRD mission together with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA in Southern California and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.