LGS Innovations has been awarded contract to support NASA’s efforts to use deep space laser communications to transmit science and engineering data from a probe of a rare nickel-iron asteroid, the company said.
The contract will support the laser transmitter assembly on NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications instrument. NASA believes laser communications will be the fastest, most efficient means of communicating between spacecraft and mission managers on Earth, enabling a steady stream of high-definition imagery, live video feeds and real-time data transmission across vast distances.
The DSOC system will get its first real-world demonstration as a part of NASA’s Psyche mission in 2022, which will send a probe to the solar system’s main asteroid belt to gather data on how planets and other celestial bodies are formed.
LGS Innovations will work on the next-generation laser transmitter mounted on the spacecraft. The work will help NASA increase communications performance and data transmission rates by many times over conventional means, with a very small physical footprint, according to LGS Innovations CEO Kevin Kelly.
“This is a unique project of many firsts,” Kelly said. “The unprecedented high-bandwidth communications links will enable a wider range of future scientific inquiry than is currently possible, as well as improved human communications back to Earth.”
The Psyche mission, led by Arizona State University, is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, a series of lower-cost, highly focused robotic space missions to explore the solar system. The Psyche project is capped at $450 million, according to ASU. The probe will undertake a 3.5-year journey set to explore the building blocks of planets, including Earth, by examining a rare nickel-iron asteroid thought to be an exposed planetary core, according to LGS. In addition to the next-generation LGS laser transmitter, the spacecraft will also be equipped its current X-band telecommunications system.