NASA's moon probe starts outer space Internet test
Spacecraft enters lunar orbit and begins test on next generation laser communications system
Computerworld - NASA's newly launched lunar probe has begun testing what could eventually become an outer space Internet.
NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) observatory said the probe on Thursday night began a limited test of a high-data-rate laser communication system. It's the U.S. space agency's first laser communications test.
If it works as planned, NASA plans to use similar systems to speed up future satellite communications and deep space communications with robots and human exploration crews.
The spacecraft, which launched on Sept. 6 from the Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va., reached lunar orbit on Oct. 6. A series of maneuvers put the probe into the proper orbit for engineers on Earth to check out its instruments and set up the laser communications test.
The test is expected to run through the middle of November, said Dewayne Washington, a spokesman for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
"They're testing from different vantage points, different weather conditions," Washington said. "We want to gauge how well it would work under different conditions. it'll take a while to do that."
"Everything, so far, is going well," he added.
The space probe's main mission is to study the moon's atmosphere, though officials say testing the laser communications system also a major undertaking.
Using laser communications instead of radio systems would enable robots, such as the Curiosity Mars rover and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and astronauts to send and receive far greater data loads fron space, whether in orbit around Earth, on the moon or on a distant asteroid.
Two-way laser communications systems can deliver six times more data with 25% less power than the best radio systems, Don Cornwell, Lunar Laser Communications Mission Manager at Goddard, said in an earlier interview.
Laser communications uses devices are half the weight of today's radio devices on rockets, rovers and spacecraft, Cornwell said. Weight is a critical factor in the performance of on such craft.
Once the laser communications test is complete, NASA engineers will adjust the spacecraft's orbit to better position it for it to begin scientific experiments on the moon's atmosphere.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about Emerging Technologies in Computerworld's Emerging Technologies Topic Center.
- Market Overview: Digital Customer Experience Delivery Platforms Forrester states that businesses today struggle to understand and use the tools necessary to create and manage unified, multichannel digital customer experiences across...
- The Growing Demand for Rich Media This white paper discusses how IBM Customer Experience Suite Rich Media Edition can automate rich media workflows, from collaborating with creative agencies and...
- Three Best Practices to Help Enterprises Overcome BYOD Challenges The new Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) environment presents challenges for IT managers and business leaders. This paper discusses how IT managers can address those challenges,...
- Intelligent Imaging for Improved Banking Performance and Profitability A new generation of "Intelligent Imaging" solutions has emerged that is helping banks remove the burden of paper in legacy processes, like loan...
- Keep Servers Up and Running and Attackers in the Dark An SSL/TLS handshake requires at least 10 times more processing power on a server than on the client. SSL renegotiation attacks can readily...
- On Demand: Mastering the Art of Mobile Content Management Mobile device usage in the enterprise has skyrocketed, and it continues to escalate. IT must answer to users who demand access to their... All Emerging Technologies White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!