Space: NASA beams HD video from Space Station via laser

NASA has successfully beamed a high-definition video 260 miles from the International Space Station to Earth using a new laser communications instrument.

NASA - OPALS instrument firing a laser

NASA – OPALS instrument firing a laser

The US space agency says the transmission of the “Hello, World!” video was the first 175-megabit communication for the Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS).

It was a technology demonstration, says NASA, to test methods for communication with future spacecraft using higher bandwidth than radio waves.

“The International Space Station is a test bed for a host of technologies that are helping us increase our knowledge of how we operate in space and enable us to explore even farther into the solar system,” said Sam Scimemi, International Space Station division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“Using the space station to investigate ways we can improve communication rates with spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit is another example of how the orbital complex serves as a stepping stone to human deep space exploration.”

A laser beacon was emitted by the Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory ground station at the Table Mountain Observatory in Wrightwood, California, and OPALS locked onto it. According to NASA it then began to modulate the beam from its 2.5-watt, 1,550-nanometer laser to transmit the video.

The transmission lasted 148 seconds, reaching a maximum data transmission rate of 50 megabits per second. NASA says it took OPALS 3.5 seconds to transmit each copy of the “Hello World!” video message, which would have taken more than 10 minutes using traditional downlink methods.

“It’s incredible to see this magnificent beam of light arriving from our tiny payload on the space station,” said Matt Abrahamson, OPALS mission manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

“We look forward to experimenting with OPALS over the coming months in hopes that our findings will lead to optical communications capabilities for future deep space exploration missions.”

Image: NASA – OPALS instrument firing a laser


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