Free Space Optical Communications will enable space missions to return 10 to 100 times more data with 1% of the antenna area of current state-of-the-art communications systems, while utilizing less mass and power.
Optical communications technology is being developed at NASA / JPL for future space missions generating high data-volumes. It is seen as the technology that will meet these needs for future near-Earth and deep space missions.
The inherent advantage of a laser communication system over traditional deep space communication systems is its narrower transmitted beam-width, which concentrates a larger fraction of the transmit power onto the ground receiver.
Since the optical signal wavelengths are 3 to 5 orders-of-magnitude shorter than typical RF wavelengths, the theoretical advantage of optical communication is 6 to 10 orders-of-magnitude. However, the practically realizable advantage is at least an order-of-magnitude in data rate assuming a factor of 10 reduction in aperture size for the space-borne terminal. Because of its high-bandwidth, low mass and low power-consumption, optical communications enables missions to communicate further into deep space.
CURE student tasks: Hands on laboratory work, scientific programming, numerical simulations.
CURE interns:Derek Wells, Fall 2009 -
D. Wells, Summer_2010_final_report.