NASA has confirmed that its Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) is preparing to launch later this fall. The launch will happen no earlier than November 22 from Florida. LCRD arrived in Florida in May and is currently fully integrated into the host spacecraft, and is ready for final testing before being sent into space.
LCRD uses infrared light as a medium to send and receive information via laser beams between locations. The demonstration is meant to show the benefits of using infrared lasers communication from space. One of the benefits NASA is touting about the demonstration is the ability to increase data available via a single downlink.
LCRD also reduces the size, weight, and power requirements of Communications Systems aboard spacecraft. Currently, the system is undergoing its final testing, and the last pieces of hardware required for the system are being integrated as final inspections are being performed. In May, the launch integration systems testing was performed at the Astrotech Space Operations facility in Titusville, Florida.
The LCRD demonstration is a payload going into orbit aboard a Department of Defense Space Test Program Satellite-6. The satellite is part of the DoD Space Test Program mission and will be placed into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The Goddard Space Flight Center is leading the demonstration, and partners in the mission include the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory.
Funding for LCRD is through the NASA Technology Demonstration Missions program, part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate. The spacecraft will be placed into a geosynchronous orbit 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface and will be the first two-way laser communications relay operated by NASA.