NASA's Deep Space Network Marks Milestone with Psyche Laser Communications
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NASA's Deep Space Network Marks Milestone with Psyche Laser Communications

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NasaNASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) reaches a significant milestone as the experimental antenna, Deep Space Station 13, successfully receives both radio frequency and near-infrared laser signals from NASA's Psyche spacecraft in deep space. This breakthrough demonstrates the adaptability of DSN's giant dish antennas for optical, or laser, communications.

The 34-meter radio-frequency-optical-hybrid antenna, known as Deep Space Station 13, has actively tracked the downlink laser from NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) technology demonstration since November 2023. Integrated with the Psyche spacecraft, launched in October 2023, DSOC aims to showcase laser communication capabilities in deep space.

The hybrid antenna transmitted data from Psyche from a distance of 32 million km at a rate of 15.63 megabits per second on January 1, 2024, exhibiting a remarkable 40-fold increase in speed compared to traditional radio frequency communications at that distance. This accomplishment signifies a step toward higher-data-rate communications, crucial for future deep space exploration, including potential human missions to Mars.

The technology utilizes seven ultra-precise segmented mirrors, a proof of concept for a scaled-up version with 64 segments, equivalent to an 8-meter aperture telescope. Officials express optimism about the antenna's potential to detect laser signals from Mars at its farthest point from Earth, showcasing the evolving landscape of deep space communication technologies.

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