If you thought your high-speed internet was fast, think again.
NASA has set a new data transmission speed record in space, transmitting information to and from the LADEE spacecraft some 380,000 kilometers in lunar orbit. NASA downloaded data at a rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps) using a pulsed laser beam.
For comparison, Akamai’s technologies indicate that the average Internet user has a connection speed of 3.3 Mbps. In the United States, the average connection speed is 8.7 Mbps.
Aboard LADEE is the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) is NASA’s first two-way communication system using a laser instead of radio waves. It also demonstrated an error-free data download rate of 20 Mbps transmitted from the main ground station in New Mexico to the spacecraft currently orbiting the moon.
Ever since NASA first ventured into space, it has relied on radio frequency (RF) communication. However, RF is reaching its limit as the demand for more data capacity continues to grow. The development and deployment of laser communications will allow NASA to expand communications capabilities such as increased image resolution and 3D video transmission from deep space. LLCD has demonstrated speeds five times faster than NASA currently.
“The goal of LLCD is to validate and build confidence in this technology so future missions consider using it,” said Don Cornwell, LLCD manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. . “This unique capability developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory offers incredible application possibilities.”
LLCD is a short-lived experiment and the precursor to NASA’s long-lived demonstration, the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD). Its launch is scheduled for 2017.