NASA confirmed that its Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment achieved ‘first light’ during the early hours of November 14, sending data via laser to and from far beyond the Moon for the first time.
The experimental transmitter is mounted aboard the recently launched Psyche spacecraft, which is traveling to the asteroid belt.
The uplink laser beacon transmitted from the Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory at JPL’s Table Mountain Facility near Wrightwood, California. The uplink beacon helped the transceiver aim its downlink laser back to Palomar (which is 100 miles, or 130 kilometers, south of Table Mountain) while automated systems on the transceiver and ground stations fine-tuned its pointing.
“Achieving first light is one of many critical DSOC milestones in the coming months, paving the way toward higher-data-rate communications capable of sending scientific information, high-definition imagery, and streaming video in support of humanity’s next giant leap: sending humans to Mars,” said Trudy Kortes, director of Technology Demonstrations at NASA Headquarters in Washington.