Science & Technology

NASA High Bandwidth Laser Communication Relay Demonstration Prepares for Launch

Demonstration diagram of NASA’s laser communication relay communicating with the International Space Station via a laser link.Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASALaser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD) is preparing for launch this fall by November 22nd. The payload arrived in Florida in May, was fully integrated into the host spacecraft, and was ready for final testing before being lofted into space.

LCRD uses the power of infrared light to send and receive information encoded in an invisible laser beam from one location to the next. Once in orbit, LCRD demonstrates the benefits of using infrared lasers to communicate information from space. These benefits include increasing data on a single downlink and reducing spacecraft communication system size, weight, and power requirements.

Laser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD) Overview Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

As part of the final testing campaign, several LCRD team members integrated the final hardware, completed the final inspection, and conducted a launch integrated system test at the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida. Completed in May, these were the final set of earth-based tests of the payload and confirmed that they were ready for launch. Soon, the host spacecraft will be fueled with propellant and ready for encapsulation and mating with the Atlas V rocket.

When the spacecraft is driven into space and reaches its destination in geosynchronous orbit (22,000 miles above the surface of the Earth), the LCRD becomes NASA. First bidirectional laser communication relay..

LCRD is a NASA payload installed in the Department of Defense Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6). Part of the Third Space Test Program (STP-3) mission, the STP Sat-6 will be launched by the United Launch Alliance Atlas V551 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. STP is operated by the US Space Force’s Space System Command.

LCRD is led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.Partners include NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California MIT Lincoln Laboratory. LCRD is funded through NASA’s Technology Demonstration Mission Program as part of NASA’s Department of Space Technology Missions and the NASA Headquarters Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Program.

NASA High Bandwidth Laser Communication Relay Demonstration Prepares for Launch NASA High Bandwidth Laser Communication Relay Demonstration Prepares for Launch

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