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NASA Eyes Photonics Usage to Address Spaceflight Challenges

satelliteNASA looks to utilize photonics to address what the agency sees as challenges in spaceflight such as data communications from space to Earth, mission payload sizes and altitude measurements from orbit.

NASA said Friday it looks to boost space communications for near-Earth and deep-space missions and the space agency has invested in new ways to bolster data rates and discover more efficient systems.

Photonics tackles different uses of photons, or particles of light that make up laser beams and a biennial event to raise public awareness with regards to field called “Day of Photonics” was held on Friday.

The space agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center aims to push through with a Laser Communications Relay Demonstration to build on previous work with the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration that proved space-based laser communications systems as a viable option in the launch and space environment.

LCRD is currently slated for launch in 2019 and will simulate real communications support for two years via a test payload on the International Space Station and two dedicated ground stations in California and Hawaii, NASA noted.

NASA added that its Glenn Research Center looks to launch an Integrated Radio and Optical Communications mission to place a laser communications relay satellite in orbit around Mars that will receive data from distant spacecraft and then relay the signal back to earth.

Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Glenn will also follow up on the LLCD mission’s work and focus on how laser communications can be integrated on deep-space missions.

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