The asteroid probe Psyche is equipped with a golden laser transceiver. On November 14, the device achieved its first transmission, transmitting and receiving data with a laser for the first time in an area well beyond the moon.
According to NASA’s announcement, in a demonstration experiment for Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC), a near-infrared laser with encoded data was transmitted from deep space 16 million km away to the Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory in San Diego, California.
Photonics have been used to transmit data from Earth orbit and the moon, but NASA is fine-tuning the communications technology ahead of future missions into deep space, and this experiment was the farthest distance recorded by a laser beam.
NASA officials emphasize that achieving first light is a great achievement. Ground systems successfully detected deep-space laser photons from Psyche’s DSOC flight transceiver and were able to send back more data. It was exchanged through light.
The DSOC transceiver was loaded onto the probe Saiki and launched on October 13 as the first technology demonstration of optical communication from as far away as Mars. Saiki’s first goal is to explore and study the metal-rich asteroid Pushke to gain knowledge about planet formation and core dynamics.
Laser communication systems fill data with laser light wave vibrations, encode messages into optical signals, and transmit them to a receiver via an infrared laser that is invisible to the human eye.
NASA is using radio waves for mission communication up to the moon, but near-infrared rays can transmit and receive more data by storing data in a much shorter wavelength. According to the announcement, the purpose of the DSOC experiment is to demonstrate a data transmission rate that is 10 to 100 times higher than the current radio frequency system currently used by spacecraft. However, optical communication becomes more difficult as the distance increases, requiring precision in directing the laser beam. As Saiki heads toward the target asteroid, the laser photons fade. Moreover, it takes time for photons to reach their destination, so it may take more than 20 minutes at the closest distance. By the time the data reaches Earth, ground control will need to adjust to the probe’s new location. This experiment was the first opportunity for DSOC and the Psyche operations team to work together to perfectly match ground assets and flight transceivers.
Having achieved the first experiment, the team is working to improve the system that controls the direction of the downlink laser stacked on the transceiver. Optical communications can be a benefit to scientists and researchers seeking to achieve more in space missions and enable manned exploration of deep space. As data increases, discoveries also increase. Related information: this placeYou can check it here.