back to article NASA to fire 1Gbps laser 'Wi-Fi' ... into spaaaaace

NASA hopes to use lasers to shoot data to and from the International Space Station and Earth at gigabit-per-second rates by 2021. The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) has the potential to become “the high-speed internet of the sky,” the American space agency said on Wednesday. The plan is to encode digital data …

  1. Your alien overlord - fear me

    NASA does know that the ISS spins around the earth and isn't in line of sight all the time? Is the geostationary 'base station' going to have a stonking big buffer because watching Netflix in space will be tedious - watching for 10 minutes, buffering for 90, watching for 10, buffering for 90.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      They'll only need two

      If they have two of these satellites on opposite sides of the globe one will always be within reach of ISS. That probably makes more sense than having ISS go directly to Earth through the atmosphere.

      And even with one, good bandwidth 50% of the time is still an improvement.

      1. macjules Silver badge

        Re: They'll only need two

        You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have satellites with frickin' laser beams attached to them.

        Had to stick that one in somewhere.

    2. Robin

      "NASA does know that the ISS spins around the earth and isn't in line of sight all the time?"

      You should get in touch with them ASAP, they probably hadn't thought of that.

    3. Alister Silver badge

      The ISS Spins round the earth...

      It's fine, NASA have taken this into consideration, and they are going to build a set of railway tracks all the way round the world at latitude 22o North, which the base station will run on.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: The ISS Spins round the earth...

        Concorde could have done it

  2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    "Netflix" is not a verb.

    1. Brenda McViking
      Headmaster

      >Go to urban dictionary

      >Look up "Netflix and chill"

      >Come back and apologise

    2. notowenwilson

      "Netflix" was not a verb.

      FTFY

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Headmaster

        To Netflix...

        Argh.

        Verbing nouns weirds language.

        1. kain preacher Silver badge

          Re: To Netflix...

          So you don't xerox a copy ?

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: To Netflix...

            Or google something you heard? Or facebook someone to setup a dinner date? Or text someone?

            1. Pedigree-Pete Bronze badge
              Pint

              Re: To Netflix...

              or indeed Hoover the carpet, tho' I do know people who Dyson their carpet. We G-Tech ours. :) PP

              Icon > 'coz Friday.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: To Netflix...

            "So you don't xerox a copy ?"

            Outside of the US? No, we don't, we just make a copy, do a copy or photocopy $something although a true 18th century purist might say they Watted a copy :-p

            (other jurisdictions and languages may apply)

    3. cray74 Silver badge

      "Netflix" is not a verb.

      Only in archaic second millennium English. ;)

      1. TRT Silver badge

        I thought that "Netflix and chill" was fashioned in the same form as "coffee and sex"? And coffee isn't a verb.

    4. andypbw

      All nouns can be verbed

  3. kyza

    Ping

    But will the ping be low enough for good CS:GO?

  4. Oengus Silver badge

    Latency...

    You won't be playing any real time games over the link... The propagation delay will be somewhere between 1/4 second and 1 second depending on where your spaceship is in orbit in relation to the switching unit...

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Latency...

      One second...? Who said anything about going halfway to the Moon...?!?

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Latency...

        I make it around 120 milliseconds one way transit to a geosynchronous satellite, so about a quarter second to the ultimate destination (plus additional switching time within the routing station, and around half a second turnaround. Short enough for voice communication but long enough to be quite annoying on an interactive terminal or the like.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Latency...

          "Short enough for voice communication but long enough to be quite annoying on an interactive terminal or the like."

          You just switch local echo on for xterm.

        2. Oengus Silver badge

          Re: Latency...

          120 milliseconds from earth to geosynchronous satellite, depending on location of location of space station receiving message 120 milliseconds (low earth orbit) to 240 milliseconds (geosynchronous orbit on the opposite side of the earth) or more if space station is at L4 or L5. Then of course you have to double that for the return trip...

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Latency...

      latency goes up when you use geosync satellites. best sync would be to multiple ground stations underneath the expected path of the ISS, almost like cell towers [with frickin' laser beams, OK couldn't resist either, heh]

      really, though, a design of a laser with less than a 1 degree cone might do the trick, then have the response laser modulate the original "carrier" [i.e. reflect it back with interferometry involved, let's say]. targeting a laser within one degree shouldn't be too hard. existing weapons systems might already have similar capability...

      whole point would be for the ground-based laser not only to send data, but to power up the received signal as well. A laser has a cone-shaped propagation pattern, more or less, and so disperses a little bit [especially from atmospheric interference]. Then it's just reflected back with modulation by the I.S.S..

      yeah, it could work... (with frickin' laser beams)

  5. adam 40

    Shooting data at Hawaii?

    Nice that they are using Hawaii as the test bed.

    I hope they will be using an "Aloha" protocol....

    1. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: Shooting data at Hawaii?

      they are using ALOHAnet.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Shooting data at Hawaii?

      Better than using Huwei. You don't want a backdoor to open unexpectedly when in a vacuum.

  6. Known Hero

    Is it WiFi if it is using focused light ?

    1. Ragarath

      Give the writer their due. 'Wi-Fi' was in inverted commas.

    2. Anonymous Blowhard

      "Is it WiFi if it is using focused light ?"

      Well it is wireless; the proposed CAT 6 Ethernet needed too much copper...

      1. Professor Clifton Shallot

        " the proposed CAT 6 Ethernet needed too much copper..."

        Shame - might have been useful for the Space Elevator.

    3. Charles 9 Silver badge

      I think the better term is "Li-Fi".

    4. kain preacher Silver badge

      Yes since they both are electromagnet(spectrum) radiation. Wi Fi use the non visible light waves

  7. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Another slight issue?

    The article says it needs to be very precisely aligned. So, even if you get over the issue of line-of-sight from a network of base stations, doesn't that mean that you'll need a separate ground-based laser + tracking/aiming hardware for each space vehicle you want to talk to?

    Not a major problem at the moment, but does rather limit options for expanding the system.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another slight issue?

      Or instead of everyone talking to everyone else, perhaps you could have some sort of shared intermediary device that can "route" or "switch" the data?

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Another slight issue?

        I wondered about that. Point the ground laser at a 'router' satellite in geostationary orbit, but then the satellite needs a separate laser rig to pass the data on to each space vehicle, which won't be in geostationary orbits and could have much larger angular velocities relative to the satellite than for the ground ones. And that kit could be quite heavy. Probably cheaper to do it directly from the ground, but still not easily expandable.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another slight issue?

          Much like the internet, you don't need to be using lasers (e.g. fiber) everywhere for it to work. If you can sling gigabits per second over long distances with lasers to fixed points you can do the last leg with plain old radio.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Another slight issue?

            Except last I checked the ISS is in LOW Earth Orbit (meaning 1,200 miles tops--higher than that is Medium Earth Orbit). It's closer to terra firma than the geostationary distance of 22,000 miles or so.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Another slight issue?

              Nasa do not approve of the term LOW Earth orbit.

              With the new administration it is; the greatest orbit, America's orbit, the best orbit ever

            2. Richard Boyce

              Re: Another slight issue?

              Getting info through the atmosphere is the tricky bit, hence the desire to point near vertically. A few routers hanging above ground stations using tight laser beams, can then use relatively wide beams to talk to other fast-moving spacecraft.

            3. tom dial Silver badge

              Re: Another slight issue?

              The article says the routing station will be in geosynchronous orbit, if memory serves about 22,300 miles.

              1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

                Re: Another slight issue?

                The article is talking about a test system which will be on a satellite in geosynchronous orbit (presumably because actually creating the tracking tech is still on the to do list). The business about routing is purely commenter speculation. My take is that they are planning to do direct to LEO from a series of ground stations but that too is pure speculation.

  8. Brangdon

    SpaceX

    This sounds like the technology SpaceX plans to use for their Internet via satellite scheme, which they hope will pay for their Mars colony. The hard part (aside from launching 7,500 satellites into LEO, which they think they have nailed), is making the pizza-box ground transcievers that can track the satellites as they move.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX_satellite_constellation

  9. Sleep deprived

    "requires the optical modules to be perfectly aligned"

    Like hitting an LED-sized receptor with a laser pointer spot from orbit?

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: "requires the optical modules to be perfectly aligned"

      The neat thing about optics is that we're pretty good at shaping the beam width to an almost arbitrary size at the destination. Not to say that kilometer-wide beams are a bright idea, but you don't exactly need to hit a coin with another coin...

  10. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    Sounds to me like kind of a tin can telephone. A sophisticated one, that is.

  11. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Weather?

    Will the lasers be able to penetrate cloud cover (including really dense thunderclouds)? If not, the link will be prone to frequent downtime. Heavy rain will reduce the signal strength of conventional satellite radio signals, and I should think lasers would be worse affected.

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