Washington, DC--The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA's) Space Technology Program awarded a $3 million dollar contract to Space System/Loral (Palo Alto, CA) to initiate the process of hosting a space laser communications relay demonstration terminal payload aboard a Loral commercial satellite that launches in 2016. Commercial communications satellites offer the location, size, and power systems needed to conduct NASA's space laser communications trials. Space laser communications has the potential to provide 100 times higher data rates than traditional radio frequency with much less mass and power.
The technology demonstration payload from NASA will be stationed high above the equator aboard the Loral spacecraft. This is a prime location to conduct communications experiments with other orbiting satellites or ground stations. The agreement marks the first time NASA has contracted to fly a payload on an American-manufactured commercial communications satellite.
"Using a commercial communications satellite to host a NASA technology demonstration payload provides an opportunity to partner with American industry for the agency to gain access to space faster and at a lower cost than developing and launching dedicated satellites," said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA's Space Technology Program in Washington. "Once deep space laser communications is operational, it will be like going from home dial-up Internet service to broadband."
The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration mission is one of several flight demonstrations that NASA selected for development in 2011 because of its potential to provide tangible, near-term products and infuse high-impact capabilities into NASA's future space operations missions. By investing in high-payoff, disruptive technology that industry does not have today, NASA matures the technology required for its future missions while proving the capabilities and lowering the cost of government and commercial space activities.
More information on NASA's Space Technology Program and the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration project is available at www.nasa.gov/tdm.