Google+ SpaceTravelFoundation: ISS data communication boosted by the laser OPALS

March 14, 2014

ISS data communication boosted by the laser OPALS

Dear followers and readers,

The bandwidth speed of the communications between the International Space Station and Earth is a real bottleneck for the scientific experiments. But NASA decided to fix this problem. The slowness of capturing data from ISS is about to go into serious overdrive with a new laser communication experiment set which will be launch to ISS this weekend. The experiment gear is called OPALS for Optical Payload for Laser Science

OPALS transfers the video data from ISS to the ground receiver at JPL's Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory (OCTL) in Wrightwood, California. As the ISS travels across the sky, a laser beacon is transmitted from the ground telescope to the payload on ISS and tracked. The main existing deep space missions send back 200k to 400k bits of information per second. OPALS will send information by laser beam rather than radio wave, demonstrating a speed of up to 50 megabits per second. Future deep space optical communication systems should reach up to one gigabit per second.
The OPALS module will be sent up to the space station aboard the cargo Dragon from the private company Space X. Its launch is planned next Sunday, March 16th.

Credit: NASA 

Stay tuned for the space launch of OPALS module

[Update] The Dragon launch was postponed to March 30. Stay tuned