NASA's new experimental antenna is tracking something unique in space

Scientists believe that visual communication is able to transmit much more information than standard forms. The development of this technology will provide new opportunities for space exploration.

NASA has developed a future hybrid radio-frequency optical antenna, Deep Space Station 13. In contrast, the Psyche probe is equipped with a special deep space optical communications (DSOC) laser transceiver.

“Our hybrid antenna is able to effectively and reliably target and track the link to DSOC shortly after the launch of the technology demonstration,” said Amy Smith, deputy director of DSN at JPL. “It also picked up a radio frequency signal from Psyche.” We have demonstrated simultaneous radio and optical communications in space for the first time.

At the end of 2023, the hybrid antenna was able to transmit data from a distance of 32 million kilometers at a rate of 15.63 Mbps – this is About 40 times faster than standard wireless connections.

Antenna equipped Seven ultra-resolution sectional mirrorsWhich captures laser photons. During operation, they mimic the light collecting device found in a telescope. As the researchers point out, when laser photons reach the antenna, each mirror reflects them towards a special camera with very high sensitivity, which is connected to the antenna's sub-reflector. The collected signal is further transmitted through an optical fiber and transmitted to a cryogenically cooled semiconductor single photon detector.

Researchers hope the unique equipment can do just that Discovery of a laser signal sent from Mars At its furthest point from Earth – about 2.5 times farther than Earth's distance from the Sun. Sunda self Next June, it will reach the same distance when it passes near the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Its main goal is to explore the mineral-rich asteroid Psyche.

As experts point out, DSOC is a technological revolutionWhich increases transmission speed and is able to transmit complex scientific information as well as videos and images with high resolution.

– We've been adding new radio frequencies to the giant DSN antennas spread around the world for decades, so the most feasible next step is to include optical frequencies. We can have one resource that can do two things at the same time; Converting our roads into highways It saves time, money and resources, said Barzeya Tehrani, deputy director of ground communications systems and director of hybrid antenna connectivity at JPL.

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