News: 1 Gigabyte modems using integrated-photonics could be the future transferring data.
A light-based modem has been developed by NASA that could offer data transfer rates up to 100 times faster than radio.
The laser-powered device is to be tested on the International Space Station in 2020 and if all goes to plan then it could one day replace the space station’s existing radio communications.
This is the first modem that features integrated-photonics and it could reduce the size and power consumption of optical devices and improve reliability, said the modem’s developer Mike Krainak.
"The technology will simplify optical system design. It will reduce the size and power consumption of optical devices, and improve reliability, all while enabling new functions from a lower-cost system.
"It is clear that our strategy to leverage integrated photonic circuitry will lead to a revolution in Earth and planetary-space communications as well as in science instruments," said Krainak.
NASA has previously tested laser communications back in 2013 and it was able to achieve a download speed of 622Mbps. However, this was a one off trial and the new modem system is designed to be the future operational system for spacecraft communications.
The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) is a device about the size of a mobile phone that incorporates optics-based functions such as lasers, switches and wires onto a microchip.
The leap forward in technology could allow for video to be transferred in high-resolution from spacecraft over planets across the solar system. That would enable much more detailed studies on conditions on other worlds.
The project is expected to begin operations in 2019 after an initial two-year demonstration period.
The end goal is provide a faster exchange of data to the scientific community, meaning that the modems have to be small and inexpensive. While it may enable interplanetary communications, the technology could also be put to use for distributing data from data centre to data centre or businesses.