The TBIRD laser communication system doubles its own speed record and can send scientific data from space to earth at lightning speed. This is the future of space communications.
In December, we wrote about a communications system on a satellite that can send data back to earth via lasers at a record-breaking 100 gigabits per second (Gbps). The engineers of the so-called TeraByte Infrared Delivery (TBIRD) have already indicated that they would like to increase this speed to 200 Gbps. We have now succeeded, report NASA and MIT Lincoln Laboratory (USA).
340 times faster
Satellites and mobiles collect more and more data, sometimes even more than it is possible to send. Most satellites send this data to earth via radio waves. And it’s not that fast: around 10 megabits per second (Mbps). The luxurious and large communication system of the International Space Station (ISS) reaches a maximum of 600 megabits per second. But the TBIRD, which is about the size of a tissue box, can do it much faster, reaching a record speed of 100 Gbps in December. It’s almost 170 times faster than the ISS. The new record of 200 Gbps is even almost 340 times faster.
This high speed is possible because the TBIRD uses lasers. Laser waves have higher frequencies than radio waves. And the higher the frequency of a wave, the more information it can carry.
Laser communication systems involve a lot of problems. In the December article, you can read how the TBIRD handles this.
“TBIRD will change the way we communicate in space,” said Beth Keer, mission manager for TBIRD, in a NASA press release. “Imagine how powerful space instruments could be if they took full advantage of advances in detector speed and sensitivity.” This is not happening yet because otherwise more information will be collected than can be sent. “Laser communication is the missing link that will enable important scientific discoveries in the future.”
Image: NASA/Dave Ryan
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