NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) system has achieved a major milestone by successfully transmitting a video from deep space at speeds faster than most broadband internet connections. The video was received at Palomar and then sent to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) over the internet, although the signal from deep space was faster.
This achievement comes after the system’s initial success, known as “first light,” on November 14. Since then, the DSOC system has demonstrated faster data downlink speeds and increased pointing accuracy, further proving its capabilities.
On December 4, the project showcased its impressive capabilities by demonstrating downlink bit rates comparable to broadband internet download speeds. In total, 1.3 terabits of data were downloaded, marking a significant achievement. To put this into perspective, NASA’s Magellan mission to Venus, conducted from 1990 to 1994, downlinked 1.2 terabits of data over its entire mission.
The DSOC system is an integral part of NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions program and is supported by NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program. To bring this project to fruition, a collaboration was established between JPL, Arizona State University, and Maxar Technologies. JPL is leading the project, managing the overall operations and engineering, as well as system integration and testing.
This groundbreaking technology is part of the larger Psyche mission, NASA’s 14th mission selected under the Discovery Program. The mission aims to explore Psyche, an asteroid with an intriguing metal core, to gain valuable insights into the early history of planetary formation.
The successful transmission of video from deep space using the DSOC system highlights the immense potential of optical communications for future deep space missions. This breakthrough could revolutionize communication capabilities for spacecraft exploring distant corners of the universe. As NASA continues to push boundaries and develop cutting-edge technologies, the DSOC system represents a significant step forward in our quest to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos.
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