It’s one of three projects selected by NASA for a trial run, with the other two being a solar sail and a deep space atomic clock. Laser communication systems have been tested in space before, but not on the scale of the planned Laser Communications Relay demonstration mission, which will run for three years.
It’s hoped that if the technology performs well then it could be used on future satellites and rovers to deliver high-definition, live television from the surface of Mars. “We’re looking to bridge the gap to the next era of space communications,” lead scientist David Israel, told Discovery News. “It’s a key way to get us through to the next level of that technology.”
The laser system took the majority of the $175 million cash pot that NASA wants to invest in three promising technologies. The other two are an atomic clock that could act as a navigation system in space, and a solar sail that could act as a low-energy propulsion system.
All three will be trialled on future satellites.