Thursday February 16, 2017

NASA Says Lasers May Bring Broadband to Space

From motion sickness and bone deterioration to disrupted senses and mutated DNA, there are tons of reasons why being in space sucks. Worst of all, of course, is super-slow internet access, which could make something as trivial as tweeting a complicated endeavor. NASA’s solution for a faster system will reportedly rely on lasers, which travel in a higher-frequency bandwidth than radio, allowing for better data transfer.

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You’re lucky if a spacecraft can send more than a few megabits per second (Mbps). But we might be on the cusp of a change. Just as going from dial-up to broadband revolutionized the Internet and made high-resolution photos and streaming video a given, NASA may be ready to undergo a similar "broadband" moment in coming years. The key to that data revolution will be lasers. For almost 60 years, the standard way to "talk" to spacecraft has been with radio waves, which are ideal for long distances. But optical communications, in which data is beamed over laser light, can increase that rate by as much as 10 to 100 times.