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Longest Laser Link Set for Moon Launch

An experiment aboard NASA's LADEE orbiter will put deep-space laser communications to the test

3 min read
Longest Laser Link Set for Moon Launch
Shine Bright: This image came from two telescopes. It’ll take two more to test a new laser system this month.
Photo: T.A. Rector and I.P. Dell’Antonio/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Last March, a laser-ranging system on the United States’ East Coast beamed a tiny image of the Mona Lisa to NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The transmission, which reached the spacecraft while it was in orbit around the moon, was just a trickle of data by Earth standards, topping out at 300 bits per second.

Soon, that modest demonstration could be trumped by a much faster, two-way link. On 6 September, the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) is set to launch to the moon. Once in orbit, it is expected to be able to receive data from Earth via laser at a rate of 20 megabits per second and send data back at up to 620 Mb/s. If all goes well, researchers say, the experiment could someday enable spacecraft to send high-definition video from other planets and allow high-bandwidth communication with astronauts who venture beyond the moon.

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Top Tech 2023: A Special Report

These two dozen technical projects should make significant advances in the coming year

2 min read
Top Tech 2023: A Special Report
Edmon DeHaro

Each January, the editors of IEEE Spectrum offer up some predictions about technical developments we expect to be in the news over the coming year. You’ll find a couple dozen of those described in the following special report. Of course, the number of things we could have written about is far higher, so we had to be selective in picking which projects to feature. And we’re not ashamed to admit, gee-whiz appeal often shaped our choices.

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