Laser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD)

Laser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD)

OVERVIEW

The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) is the critical next step in preparing laser communications for operational use. A follow-on to NASA’s 2013 Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration mission, LCRD is a technology demonstration to demonstrate and validate the use of optical communications relay satellites. Once operational, this technology could be game-changing for space missions, providing data rates 10 to 100 times better than traditional radio frequency systems.

ESC, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, developed the LCRD payload, which will travel to space on a "host" spacecraft, the U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Program Satellite-6. This means LCRD is one of multiple payloads on that spacecraft. LCRD will serve as a relay satellite, meaning user spacecraft will pass their data to LCRD, which will then transmit it to receivers on Earth.

LCRD will transmit data to, and receive data from, two dedicated ground stations located in Table Mountain, California, and Haleakala, Hawaii. These ground stations will each house one of the telescopes that will capture the data LCRD sends down and turn them from light back into data. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena is managing the Table Mountain ground station.

Quick Facts

LCRD
LCRD
LCRD is scheduled to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2020.   Credit: ULA
LCRD
LCRD
LCRD will fly on the U.S. Air Force’s STPSat-6 satellite. It will be one of several hosted payloads on the mission.
LCRD
LCRD
LCRD will communicate with two ground stations in California and Hawaii via laser beams to demonstrate the long-term operational effectiveness of optical communications
LCRD
LCRD
LCRD is a follow-on mission to NASA’s Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration mission in 2013.
LCRD
LCRD
Later in its mission, LCRD will communicate with the Integrated LCRD Low-Earth-Orbit User Modem and Amplifier Terminal (ILLUMA-T) on the International Space Station – this will be the first operational optical communications system for human spaceflight!