Everyone is looking for fast Internet. No matter what your cable or broadband company can do, the fastest company always has the most customers. NASA is looking for ways to increase its download rate as well. Their method? Shooting a laser at the Moon.
Okay, so it may not be as simple as that, but NASA is using the Lunar Lasercom Optical Communication Telescope Laboratory to send a laser beam to the Moon in order to transmit data to and from LADEE, a probe that is in orbit of the Moon. Thanks to the use of the new laser, NASA has been able to up their download speed with LADEE to 622 Mbps.
By utilizing the laser NASA increased their download rate by more than five times. Before the use of the Lunar Lasercom Optical Communication Telescope to send the laser beam to the moon, NASA used radio waves to the LADEE and other orbital probes and satellites which weresignificantly slower.
NASA is getting great download rates but not as great upload rates; upload rates top out at 20 Mbps, which is great when compared to the average home Internet connection but not so great when you consider how fast the download speed is.
More work has to be done, of course, so that some of the challenges with this method can be overcome. If the laser doesn’t hit just right, communication can be interrupted or not happen at all. Also the position of the Moon plays into how well the laser works. The download and upload rates drop dramatically when the Moon is only on the horizon.
Still, this is exciting news for the next frontier mankind is looking to conquer: space. And to top it off? NASA is already working on a successor system, set to launch in 2017.