NASA sends high def video from international space station

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by CBR Staff Writer| 09 June 2014

Space ship comms experiment starts with "Hello, World!" from 260 miles up.

NASA has sent its first high definition video message from International Space Station to Earth through a laser communication instrument.

The innovative method of communication will change the way NASA communicates with future spacecraft using higher bandwidth instead of radio waves.

The technology demonstration called Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS), uses focused laser energy to communicate data, which is 10 and 1,000 times higher than current space communications through radio portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

International Space Station division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington, Sam Scimemi said, "Using the space station to investigate ways we can improve communication rates with spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit is another example of how the orbital complex serves as a stepping stone to human deep space exploration."

"The International Space Station is a test bed for a host of technologies that are helping us increase our knowledge of how we operate in space and enable us to explore even farther into the solar system."

Since International Space Station orbits at 17,500 mph, at a distance of 260 miles, the transmission requires extremely precise targeting, which is like a person aiming a laser pointer at the end of a human hair 30 feet away and keeping it there while walking, NASA said.

In order to achieve the precision, OPALS locked onto a laser beacon emitted by the Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory ground station at the Table Mountain Observatory in Wrightwood, California.

Later it began to modulate the beam from its 2.5-watt, 1,550-nanometer laser to transmit the video and during the experiment of 148 seconds, the engineers could achieve maximum data transmission rate of 50 megabits per second.

Using the OPALS technology, the scientists could send the 175MB "Hello World!" video message in 3.5 seconds which could usually takes 10 minutes through traditional downlink methods.

OPALS mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, Matt Abrahamson said, "It's incredible to see this magnificent beam of light arriving from our tiny payload on the space station."

"We look forward to experimenting with OPALS over the coming months in hopes that our findings will lead to optical communications capabilities for future deep space exploration missions," Abrahamson said.

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