Outer space communications—at light speed
Posted on: January 17, 2019

Ever watch those old video clips of NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong taking mankind’s first steps on the moon? Pretty exciting stuff—that ‘giant leap for mankind’ is still thrilling to watch.

But the film quality? Not so much. Kinda grainy, but whaddya expect, for 1969?

Not to worry: NASA is working it. Future space explorations will feature much higher quality imagery, thanks to the greater signal bandwidth offered by free-space optical (i.e., laser) communications, vs. 1969 video transmitted via radio frequency (RF) signals. This greater bandwidth will come in handy as NASA continues to explore the Moon and Mars – and sends satellites 240 million miles away to explore asteroids that might help us understand how Earth was formed.

Closer to home, NASA also wants to bring high-def video and data communications to the International Space Station. In these pursuits, NASA is partnering with leading technology providers in industry, including LGS Innovations. We’re designing and building laser amplification and targeting solutions for these kinds of missions—technical advances that will also power other LGS solutions in other networking applications.

Free-space optics will send voice, video, and data simultaneously, at much higher data rates, using much smaller and lighter equipment. Optical communications will deliver bandwidth that is orders of magnitude higher than RF signals can achieve today.

Creating powerful free-space optical communications to drive our exploration of outer space is challenging. But that’s OK: At LGS, we like challenges. (And we’re hiring.)

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