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The tech we need for Deep Space exploration

Laser communications

Why not use freakin' lasers to communicate over deep space? Image credit: Nasa/JPL

Sadly for those who want HD and 4K video streams from spacecraft, and ever-better scientific instruments, we're running out of bandwidth in space, as the development of radio frequency transmissions hit a ceiling long ago. It's now about 6Mbps. So why not use freakin' lasers instead?

Developed by Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, OPALS (Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science) is an optical communications technology based on the theory that laser beams are significantly narrower than RF, and so offer much more concentrated power. It's already successfully beamed data at 50Mbps from the ISS to JPL's Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory (OCTL) in Wrightwood, California. It's early days, but the only restriction so far is line-of-sight. Nasa's vast cloud awaits.

Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and Space.com. He also edits two of his own websites, TravGear.com and WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),