NASA and its collaborators have reached a significant breakthrough in the advancement of space communications. The TeraByte InfraRed Delivery (TBIRD) system played a pivotal role in establishing this groundbreaking communications link.
On April 28, TBIRD demonstrated an extraordinary space-to-ground optical link speed of 200 gigabits per second (Gbps). This achievement marks the highest data rate ever accomplished by optical communications technology.
TBIRD has the capability to transmit multiple terabytes of test data to Earth within a mere six-minute pass over a ground station. To put it into perspective, a single terabyte is equivalent to approximately 500 hours of high-definition video.
The exceptional data rates achieved are a direct result of employing laser communications. Unlike conventional space communication systems that rely on radio waves, laser communications utilize the oscillations of light waves within lasers to encode and transmit information.
This capability heralds a transformative shift in space communication
Beth Keer, the mission manager for TBIRD said, “Just imagine the power of space science instruments when they can be designed to fully take advantage of the advancements in detector speeds and sensitivities, furthering what artificial intelligence can do with huge amounts of data,”
“Laser communications is the missing link that will enable the science discoveries of the future.”