Integrated LCRD Low-Earth Orbit User Modem and Amplifier Terminal (ILLUMA-T)

Integrated LCRD Low-Earth Orbit User Modem and Amplifier Terminal (ILLUMA-T)

OVERVIEW

NASA’s Integrated LCRD Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO) User Modem and Amplifier Terminal (ILLUMA-T), targeted to launch in 2022, will provide astronauts and experiments aboard the International Space Station with enhanced data capabilities. The terminal will be mounted to the space station’s Japanese experiment module-exposed facility (JEM-EF), and will leverage optical communications to send high-resolution information from the space station to NASA’s first optical relay - the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD), located in geosynchronous orbit (GEO).

ILLUMA-T will be LCRD’s first user, completing an end-to-end optical communications system, which is shown in the image below. After collecting data, ILLUMA-T will send the information to LCRD over 1.244 gigabits-per-second optical links. This data will then be beamed down to optical ground stations in Haleakala, Hawaii and Table Mountain, California, which were chosen for their minimal cloud coverage, as clouds can disrupt optical signals.

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ILLUMA-T communicating to LCRD over optical signals. Credit: NASA

Optical communications systems are ideal for missions like the space station because they are smaller, weigh less, and use less power than current radio frequency systems. A smaller size means more room for science instruments. Less weight means a less expensive launch. Less power means less drain on the spacecraft’s batteries.

Quick Facts

ILLUMA-T
ILLUMA-T
The terminal will provide support to many instruments on the space station, which are conducting experiments in areas like microgravity, astrophysics, biology, and more.
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ILLUMA-T
ILLUMA-T is targeted to launch on a SpaceX mission.
ILLUMA-T
ILLUMA-T
ILLUMA-T’s experiment period is six months with an expectation that post-experiment, it will become an operational asset to the International Space Station.
ILLUMA-T
ILLUMA-T
ILLUMA-T will be attached to the International Space Station on Japanese Experiment Module-Exposed Facility 3, or JEM-EF.
ILLUMA-T
ILLUMA-T
ILLUMA-T is the size of a standard refrigerator. Pictured is the power converter.