NASA wants to update its existing radio communications system on the International Space Station (ISS) with optical communication technology. Optical communication systems, which use laser beams to transmit information through space, promise the ability to transmit data between a spacecraft and Earth at a much higher rate than radio-frequency systems. Our researchers are designing ILLUMA-T*, a laser terminal that will provide an optical communications link from the ISS to NASA's Laser Communications Relay Demonstration satellite, which, in turn, will use optical communications to relay the data from the ISS link to a ground terminal at a rate 10 to 100 times faster than current radio frequency communications systems. This capability will greatly increase the amount of scientific data transferred from the ISS.
*Integrated LCRD (Laser Communications Relay Demonstration) LEO (low-Earth orbit) User Modem and Amplifier Terminal