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PostSubject: Satellite Today    20/01/13, 12:43 pm

Publication Date: 01/17/2013

NASA has successfully achieved simultaneous laser communication and tracking with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The agency beamed an image of the Mona Lisa from Earth to the moon-orbiting spacecraft as a demonstration of laser communication while still tracking the satellite’s position.

The image traveled approximately 240,000 miles in digital form from the Next Generation Satellite Laser Ranging (NGSLR) station at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., to the LRO. The spacecraft received the image using its Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) instrument.

According to reports, this marks the first time one-way laser communication at planetary distances has been achieved. It is expected that this type of simple laser communication could serve as backup for radio communications in satellites, and possibly allow a higher data resolution than current radio links provide.

The image was divided into groups of pixels and each pixel was converted into a shade of gray. Then, each pixel was beamed by a laser pulse fired in one of 4,096 possible time slots during a short time window assigned for laser tracking. The laser pulses were received by the LRO’s LOLA instrument, which reconstructed the image without interfering with the instrument’s primary task – mapping the moon’s elevation and terrain – or the NGSLR tacking of the LRO.

The success of the transmission was verified by returning the image to Earth using the LRO’s radio telemetry system.

The development serves as a preparation for the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) that will be used for NASA’s next moon mission, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE).
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