Text Size
Optical Communications Demonstrations
April 4, 2013


Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD)
Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN), is developing optical communication technology using lasers, which can transfer data at much higher rates than Radio Frequency (RF) communications systems can. SCaN has developed the technology in the laboratory and is about to demonstrate it in the space environment with the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD). The demonstration will take place during the Lunar Atmospheric Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission, which will orbit the moon in 2013.
The LLCD demonstration consists of a space terminal on the LADEE spacecraft and a ground terminal on Earth. Together, they will demonstrate that it is possible to transfer up to 622 Mbps of data from the Moon with a space terminal that weighs less, uses less power, and occupies less space than a comparable Radio Frequency system.

LLCD Project Summary:

  • High bandwidth lunar orbit to Earth optical link
  • Downlink: 40-622 Mbps; Uplink: 10-20 Mbps
  • Two ground stations
  • Flight in 2013 on LADEE spacecraft


Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD)
In conjunction with NASA's Office of Chief Technologist (OCT), SCaN is working on the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD). LCRD will be NASA's first long-period optical communications project that will demonstrate benefits for both deep space and near Earth missions. LCRD will also validate that advanced relay operations are possible and could be used for future relays, like on Mars. The project will reuse the ground terminals developed for LLCD.

LCRD Project Summary:

  • High bandwidth geo-sync to ground optical link
  • Downlink: 1.2 Gbps; Uplink: 1.2 Gbps
  • Host payload on Loral satellite – new paradigm for NASA
  • Two ground stations
  • Flight in 2016 or 2017

SCaN will introduce optical communications on an operational basis on the Next Generation Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) in the 2022 timeframe.

Image Token: 
LCRD and ground terminals
Artist rendition of LCRD and ground terminal locations.
Image Token: 
Artist rendition of laser communications from the Moon.
Image Token: 
Page Last Updated: December 23rd, 2013
Page Editor: Thuy Mai