December 22, 2023
NASA’s Tech Demo Streams First Video From Deep Space via Laser
By Jet Propulsion Laboratory
The video, featuring a cat named Taters, was sent back from nearly 19 million miles away by NASA’s laser communications demonstration, marking a historic milestone.
NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications experiment beamed an ultra-high definition streaming video on Dec. 11 from a record-setting 19 million miles away (31 million kilometers, or about 80 times the Earth-Moon distance). The milestone is part of a NASA technology demonstration aimed at streaming very high-bandwidth video and other data from deep space – enabling future human missions beyond Earth orbit.
“This accomplishment underscores our commitment to advancing optical communications as a key element to meeting our future data transmission needs,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “Increasing our bandwidth is essential to achieving our future exploration and science goals, and we look forward to the continued advancement of this technology and the transformation of how we communicate during future interplanetary missions.”
The demo transmitted the 15-second test video via a cutting-edge instrument called a flight laser transceiver. The video signal took 101 seconds to reach Earth, sent at the system’s maximum bit rate of 267 megabits per second (Mbps). Capable of sending and receiving near-infrared signals, the instrument beamed an encoded near-infrared laser to the Hale Telescope at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California, where it was downloaded. Each frame from the looping video was then sent “live” to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, where the video was played in real time.