As humankind works towards expanding its presence in space, one day establishing colonies on other planets, questions of communication with Earth become increasingly important. To address this, researchers from MIT and NASA have demonstrated for the first time the ability to beam wireless broadband to space.
The work was done with four telescopes, each located in a New Mexico ground terminal. A laser transmitter was used to send coded pulses of infrared light to each telescope, which resulted in data being transmitted the distance from Earth to the moon.
The data sent is said to have hit a download rate of 622Mbps, having a transmission rate of 19.44Mbps. As MIT's Mark Stevens pointed out, one issue with transmitting data with lasers is the light bending that can result in the atmosphere. The use of four telescopes addresses that.
Every telescope transmitted light in a different air column, increasing the odds that the data beam will end up reaching its receiver. The satellite to which the data is sent also uses a telescope, which points the accepted laser beam of data into an optical fiber cable.
SOURCE: Ars Technica