CACI announces operation of laser communications transmitter designed for NASA deep space mission
(25 January 2021 - CACI) CACI International announced today the delivery of a flight model laser communications transmitter to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for use on-board the Psyche spacecraft, whose mission is to study the origin of planetary cores in the asteroid belt.
Laser communications, the next-generation space communications technology, can transmit data over long distances at rates up to 100 times faster than traditional radio frequency systems. The laser communications transmitter for the Psyche spacecraft is a key component of the Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package that is designed to transmit data in photon packets from the asteroid belt back to earth, a distance of nearly 200 million miles. The spacecraft will visit the Psyche asteroid, which according to NASA, is unique because it appears to be the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet, one of the building blocks of our solar system.
The CACI laser transmitter, shown here, will be used for the first laser communications demonstration in deep space and will be the longest laser communication link ever demonstrated. (courtesy: CACI)
In November 2020, CACI delivered an engineering model of the laser communication transmitter to JPL, having passed space qualification testing. To pass space qualification testing, CACI engineers demonstrated the transmitter could withstand both space launch and flight.
The NASA Psyche mission aims to demonstrate the potential of laser technology to enable deep space communications, such as transmissions from the Earth to Mars or the moon. CACI is currently designing laser communications systems for five space hardware programs, including NASA’s Orion EM-2 Optical Communications (O2O) project, which will enable broadband data communications to and from the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle designed to take humans into lunar orbit, and the NASA Integrated LCRD Low-Earth Orbit User Modem and Amplifier Terminal (ILLUMA-T) program, which will deploy laser communications technology on the International Space Station.
John Mengucci, CACI President and Chief Executive Officer, said, “The successful operation by NASA of a CACI-developed laser communications transmitter demonstrates the advanced mission technology this company designs for our country. CACI is excited to support this NASA deep space mission with fast and reliable communications, and is ready to deliver advanced laser-based technologies to other space, aerial and terrestrial missions to come.”
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