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Optical Communications Demonstrations
May 6, 2014


Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD)
Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) recently developed and tested optical communication technology using lasers, which transferred data at much higher rates than Radio Frequency (RF) communications systems. SCaN demonstrated the technology with the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) from October 2013 through April 2014 during the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission.
The LLCD demonstration consisted of a space terminal on the LADEE spacecraft and three ground terminals on Earth. Together, they demonstrated that it was 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 RF system.

LLCD Project Summary:

  • High bandwidth, lunar orbit to Earth optical link
  • Downlink: 40-622 Mbps; Uplink: 10-20 Mbps
  • Ground stations: White Sands, NM; NASA JPL’s Table Mountain, CA; European Space Agency Tenerife, Spain (Canary Islands)
  • Flight on LADEE spacecraft: October 2013 - April 2014

› Historic Demonstration Proves Laser Communications Possible
› Disruption Tolerant Networking Experiments with Optical Communications


Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD)
In conjunction with NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), 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: 1.25 Gbps
  • Host payload on Space Systems Loral (SSL) satellite - new paradigm for NASA
  • Two ground stations
  • Flight in 2018

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

› Importance of optical communications
› Optical communications benefits
› Optical communications challenges

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LCRD and ground terminals
Artist rendition of LCRD and ground terminal locations.
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Artist rendition of laser communications from the Moon.
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Page Last Updated: January 9th, 2015
Page Editor: Thuy Mai