Technology

The Laser-Enhanced Mission Communications Navigation and Operational Services (LEMNOS) project office manages both the Orion EM-2 Optical Communications System (O2O) and the Integrated Laser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD) Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) User Modem and Amplifier Terminal (ILLUMA-T) projects. O2O leverages laser communications technology for use on the next-generation Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. NASA intends Orion to take astronauts to far-off destinations in our solar system, and laser communication’s better data rates will improve the crew’s ability to connect with family and society as a whole while in space. Using laser comm, astronauts will be able to video conference with their families and stream video from Earth, keeping them connected with events like elections or the Super Bowl. Laser comm will also allow the crew to stream high-definition video back to Earth featuring their exploration of the moon and distant planets. The O2O project was originally named LEMNOS. A name change occurred in mid-2017.

LEMNOS Background Image
Advancing communications for ground-breaking missions beyond Earth orbit.
ILLUMA-T
The Integrated Laser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD) Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) User Modem and Amplifier Terminal (ILLUMA-T) will fly aboard the International Space Station as the first demonstration of a fully operational, end-to-end optical communications system. ILLUMA-T will provide the space station a state-of-the-art optical communications terminal with improved size, weight and power over comparable radio-frequency communications systems. It will communicate data from low-Earth orbit to the ground through a relay satellite in geosynchronous orbit, leveraging optical communications technologies from the upcoming LCRD mission and the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) that orbited the moon from 2013 to 2014. Optical technologies have the potential to greatly increase the amount of scientific data transferred from space to ground, supporting multiple channels of ultra-high-definition video from space.