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David J. Israel, Principal Investigator
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Laser Communications Relay Demonstration Latest News
Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD)
"Science and technology multiply around us. To an increasing extent, they dictate the languages in which we speak and think. Either we use those languages, or we remain mute."
-- J.G. Ballard, 20th-century British futurist
Radio-based space communications have been the convention since the days of NASA's Mercury and Gemini programs, but even with dramatic improvements to the technology in the last half-century, radio communications are challenged by modern mission needs, which call for significantly higher data rates, or current levels of performance requiring a lot less mass and power -- critical resources on any spacecraft.
Now the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) mission proposes to revolutionize the way we send and receive data, video and other information, using lasers to encode and transmit data at rates 10 to 100 times faster than radio, or at the same data rate as today's fastest RF radios, but using significantly less mass and power.
The LCRD team, led by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will conduct ground technology validation testing in 2014. LCRD will fly as a commercial satellite payload in 2017.