An illustration of the LCRD payload transmitting information from the International Space Station to ground stations by way of a laser communications relay. Credit: NASA
Since the dawn of spaceflight, communication transmissions and data relay has generally taken place by way of radio waves. While this process has proven tried and true over the last 50 years, if humans plan to expand the realm of exploration, communication technology must simultaneously move headlong into the future.
Enter the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration, or LCRD, the newest showcase of optical communications in space.
LCRD will use near-infrared laser frequencies to enhance communication and information bandwidth between objects in space. According to NASA, laser communications can transmit up to 100 times more data per second than radio frequency systems.
“LCRD will demonstrate all of the advantages of using laser systems and allow us to learn how to use them best operationally,” said Principal Investigator David Israel at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in a NASA news release in May 2021. “With this capability further proven, we can start to implement laser communications on more missions, making it a standardized way to send and receive data.”
Expected to launch as a ...