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Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) developed and tested optical communication technology using lasers through the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) mission, which transferred data at much higher rates than Radio Frequency (RF) communications systems. SCaN demonstrated the technology with 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