NASA Counts Down to Laser Communications for Mars
Via SIGNAL Magazine
September 1, 2018
By: George Seffers
NASA’s website says DSOC will deliver a flight-ready deep space optical transceiver and ground data system. DSOC will employ novel advanced lasers in the near-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Key technologies developed for the project include a low-mass spacecraft disturbance isolation and pointing assembly; a high-efficiency flight laser transmitter; and a pair of high-efficiency photon-counting detector arrays for the flight optical transceiver and the ground-based receiver. These technologies are integrated into the DSOC flight laser transceiver and ground-based receiver to enable photon-efficient communications with the capability to discern faint laser signals from solar energy-related background noise.
L3 SSG is building the optics that essentially help point the beam. LGS Innovations is the contractor for the flight laser, and Controlled Dynamics is responsible for some of the isolation systems that dampen vibrations and lock the laser on target.
The 2022 system launch will offer lessons learned so that the technology can be tweaked in the years to come. The timing for the fielding of a fully operational system may depend on whom you ask, according to Biswas, but he suggests that the next decade should be promising. “We will be able to deploy systems much sooner than that, but they will still go through some evolution before they are fully operational,” he says.