NASA has reported on a project to test a communication system between ground control stations and the International Space Station (ISS) using lasers as the medium for data transmission. As part of this project, NASA will be sending the ILLUMA-T (Integrated LCRD Low Earth Orbit User Modem and Amplifier Terminal) payload with the CRS-29 resupply mission scheduled for launch in October.
Once the ISS receives the ILLUMA-T payload, it will be installed on the space station. The equipment will then transmit signals to the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) satellite, which was launched earlier in 2021, completing the two-way communication link between the ISS and the ground station.
The use of lasers in this communication system offers several advantages, including improved data transfer rates. It is estimated that the maximum rate achievable is 1.2 Gbps, supporting high-resolution images and videos. This enhances the efficiency of mission operations between the ISS and the ground station. NASA will conduct tests under various conditions to explore the potential applications of this technology for communication with other celestial bodies, such as the Moon, Mars, or deep space.