Wednesday, July 31, 2013

ESA prepares for LADEE

LADEE approaches lunar orbit
Artist's view of NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) observatory as it approaches lunar orbit [NASA].
An advanced laser system offering vastly faster data speeds is now ready for linking with spacecraft beyond our planet following a series of crucial ground tests. Later this year, ESA’s observatory in Spain will use the laser to communicate with a NASA Moon orbiter.

The laboratory testing paves the way for a live space demonstration in October, once NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer – LADEE – begins orbiting the Moon.

LADEE carries a terminal that can transmit and receive pulses of laser light. ESA’s Optical Ground Station on Tenerife will be upgraded with a complementary unit and, together with two US ground terminals, will relay data at unprecedented rates using infrared light beams at a wavelength similar to that used in fiber-optic cables on Earth.

“The testing went as planned, and while we identified a number of issues, we’ll be ready for LADEE’s mid-September launch,” says Zoran Sodnik, manager for ESA’s Lunar Optical Communication Link project.

“Our ground station will join two NASA stations communicating with the LADEE Moon mission, and we aim to demonstrate the readiness of optical communication for future missions to Mars or anywhere else in the Solar System.”

Read the illustrated ESA article, HERE.

Laser from Optical Ground Station on Tenerife
ESA's Optical Ground Station (OGS) is 2400 meter above sea level on the volcanic island of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. Visible green laser beams are used for stabilizing the sending and receiving telescopes on Tenerife and neighboring La Palma. The OGS facility is utilized for extensive experiments with entangled photons, quantum communication and teleportation. OGS is also used for standard laser communication with satellites, tracking space debris and finding new asteroids. The image above includes Tenerife's Teide volcano with the Milky Way in the background [ESA/IQOQI Vienna, Austrian Academy of Sciences].

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