CLICK Team Tests Optical Communications Technology Ahead of Small Spacecraft Swarm Demonstration

Graduate students build the test assembly of the CubeSat Laser Infrared CrosslinK, or CLICK, B/C engineering development unit in a clean room at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. (Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (NASA PR) — Teams from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge and University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville are currently testing components of NASA’s CubeSat Laser Infrared CrosslinK (CLICK) B/C demonstration, aiming to validate that the technology can be packaged into a CubeSat and work as expected. CLICK B/C is the second of two sequential missions designed to advance optical communications capabilities for autonomous fleets of CubeSats.

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NRL/NASA Experiment Launched to Study Origins of Solar Energetic Particles

The UltraViolet Spectro-Coronagraph (UVSC) Pathfinder undergoes inspection after the successful completion of its thermal vacuum test at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. The front, gold-colored, aperture shows the multiple external occulters that will block direct light from the solar disk. The occultation allows the faint solar corona to be observed at Lyman-alpha wavelengths. The UVSC instrument sits on a transport cart, which is not part of the flight package. (Credit: U.S. Navy)

By Paul Cage
U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

WASHINGTON  –  A joint-U.S. Naval Research Laboratory/NASA experiment prepares to investigate the origins of Solar Energetic Particles (SEPs) that could affect Navy satellites and harm personnel during future crewed missions to the moon and beyond.

Researchers will use a new instrument, the Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph Pathfinder (UVSC Pathfinder) to try to understand the origins of these particles, how they’re generated close into the sun to provide accurate space weather forecasting when these events happen.

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NASA’s Laser Communications Tech, Science Experiment Safely in Space

Conceptual image of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration payload transmitting optical signals. (Credits: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) and a NASA-U.S. Naval Research Laboratory space weather payload to study the Sun’s radiation lifted off at 5:19 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Dec. 7.

The payloads launched aboard the Space Test Program Satellite-6 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida as part of the U.S. Space Force’s Space Test Program 3 mission.

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This Week in Launches: Japanese Tourist, New Shepard, NASA Laser Experiment, X-ray Satellite & More

Soyuz MS-20 crew members Yozo Hirano, Alexander Misurkin and Yusaku Maezawa. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Schedule subject to change without notice.

December 7

Launch Vehicle: Atlas 5 (United Launch Alliance)
Payloads: STP-6 and several rideshares
Launch Window: 4:04-6:04 a.m. EST (0904-1104 UTC)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

The U.S. Space Force mission will launch the STPSat-6 satellite and several secondary payloads. STPSat 6 hosts NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration payload and the Space and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System-3 for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

OUTCOME: Success

December 8

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz-2.1a (Roscosmos)
Payload: Soyuz MS-20
Launch Time: 2:38 a.m. EST (0738 UTC)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin will fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and his assistant, Yozo Hirano, to the International Space Station on a 12-day mission.

OUTCOME: Success

Launch Vehicle: Electron (Rocket Lab)
Payloads: BlackSky 14 & 15 Earth observation satellites
Launch Time: 6:45 p.m. EST (2345 UTC)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlab.com

December 9

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9 (SpaceX)
Payload: Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer
Launch Window: 1:00-2:30 a.m. EST (0600-0730 UTC)
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Webcast: www.nasa.gov

Launch Vehicle: New Shepard (Blue Origin)
Payload: New Shepard
Launch Time: TBA
Launch Site: Corn Ranch, Texas
Webcast: www.blueorigin.com

Laura Shepard Churchley will fly aboard a suborbital craft named in honor of her late father, NASA astronaut Alan Shepard, who became the first American in space 60 years ago and walked on the moon a decade later. She will be joined by: Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan; Voyager Space chairman and CEO Dylan Taylor; Lance Bess, principal and founder of Bess Ventures and Advisory; Lance’s son Cameron Bess; and Evan Dick, managing member of Dick Holdings. This will be the 19th launch of the New Shepard system.

UPDATE: Postponed to Saturday, Dec. 11.

December 12

Launch Vehicle: Proton (Roscosmos)
Payloads: Express AMU3 & Express AMU7 communications satellites
Launch Time: 7:09 a.m. EST (1209 UTC)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Webcast: www.roscosmos.com

Space Test Program 3 Launch Update, Now Targeted for Dec. 7

Conceptual image of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration payload transmitting optical signals. (Credits: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — The Dec. 6 launch of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 551 rocket carrying the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) mission has been scrubbed. The team repaired the ground storage system but will require additional time to verify the sample integrity of the fuel prior to tanking operations.

Launch of the mission – which hosts NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) and the NASA-U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph (UVSC) Pathfinder – is now scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 7, at 4:04 a.m. EST.

NASA TV live launch coverage will start approximately 35 minutes before launch on Dec. 7, at 3:30 a.m. EST:

https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive

Exploring Together, NASA and Industry Embrace Laser Communications

Illustration of STPSat-6 with the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) payload communicating data over infrared links. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

By Katherine Schauer
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — Our televisions and computer screens display news, movies, and shows in high-definition, allowing viewers a clear and vibrant experience. Fiber optic connections send laser light densely packed with data through cables to bring these experiences to users.

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United Launch Alliance to Launch STP-3 Mission in Support of National Security

An ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the SBIRS GEO Flight 5 mission for the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41at 1:37 p.m. EDT on May 18. (Credit; United Launch Alliance)

Mission will be a direct injection to Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) and longest mission to date

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla., Dec. 2, 2021 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is in final preparations to launch the Space Test Program (STP)-3 mission for the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command. The launch is on track for Dec. 5, 2021 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Launch is planned for 4:04 a.m. EST. The live launch broadcast begins at 3:30 a.m. EST at www.ulalaunch.com.

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NASA Sets Live Launch Coverage for Laser Communications Demonstration

Conceptual image of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration payload transmitting optical signals. (Credits: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA is taking a step toward the next era of space communications with the launch of its Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) on Sunday, Dec. 5. Live coverage of the launch is scheduled to air on NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA App beginning at 3:30 a.m. EST.

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Upcoming Launches Include Space Tourism Flight

Spaceflight participant Yozo Hiro, Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin and spaceflight participant Yusaku Maezawa. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Dates and times subject to change without notice. And remember: no wagering.

December 1

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payloads: 53 Starlink broadband satellites
Location: Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
Time: 6:20 p.m. EST (2320 GMT)
Webcast: www.spacex.com

December 1/2

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz ST-B/Fregat-MT
Payloads: Galileo 27 & 28 navigation satellites
Location: Guiana Space Center
Time: 7:31 p.m. EST (0031 GMT on Dec. 2)
Webcast: https://www.youtube.com/c/arianespace

December 5

Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Payloads: U.S. Space Force LDPE-1 space tug; STPSat-6 technology demonstrator with NASA Laser Communications Relay Demonstration payload
Location: Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
Time: 4:04-6:04 a.m. EST (0904-1104 GMT)
Webcast: http://www.ulalaunch.com

December 8

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz-2.1a
Payload: Soyuz MS-20 crewed vehicle
Location: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazahkstan
Time: 2:38 a.m. EST (07:38 GMT)
Webcast: www.roscosmos.ru

Cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin and space tourists Yusaku Maezawa and Yozo Hirano will lift off on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station.

December 9

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer
Location: Kennedy Space Center
Time: 1:00-2:30 a.m. EST (0600-0730 GMT)
Webcast: www.spacex.com

NASA Invites Public to Share Launch of Laser Communications Demonstration

Conceptual image of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration payload transmitting optical signals. (Credits: NASA)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA is inviting the public to take part in virtual activities and events ahead of the launch of the agency’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) mission. Launch is scheduled for 4:04 – 6:04 a.m. EST on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.

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With a Bit of NASA Help, Industry Looks to Laser Communications

The infrared light used for laser communications differs from radio waves because the infrared light packs the data into significantly tighter waves, meaning ground stations can receive more data at once. While laser communications aren’t necessarily faster, more data can be transmitted in one downlink. (Credits: NASA)

By Andrew Wagner
NASA’s Spinoff Publication

Visible light has been used to communicate for centuries: lanterns on ships and Morse code flashes allowed information to be conveyed at a distance. But now there’s a better way to use light to communicate over even further distances and with far more accuracy – lasers.

Launching in 2021, NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) is going to geostationary orbit, where it’ll communicate with the ground at gigabit speeds. It’s the agency’s latest step to get more data from space per downlink.

NASA has also partnered with companies to improve the technology needed to make laser communications work, and one of these companies is building off that partnership to help customers get the data they need.

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NASA Laser Communications Satellite to Empower More Data Than Ever Before

Illustration of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6) with the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) payload communicating data over infrared links. (Credit: NASA)

By Katherine Schauer
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — Launching this summer, NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration  (LCRD) will showcase the dynamic powers of laser communications technologies. With NASA’s ever-increasing human and robotic presence in space, missions can benefit from a new way of “talking” with Earth.

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COVID-19 Delays to Cost NASA $3 Billion

High-resolution illustration of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope against a starry background. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will cost NASA an estimated $3 billion due to program delays, according to a report from the space agency’s Office of Inspector General.

The report focused on the pandemic’s impact on 30 major programs and project with life-cycle costs of at least $250 million.

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New Ground Station Brings Laser Communications Closer To Reality

Illustration of the LCRD payload transmitting an optical signal to OGS-2 in Haleakala, Hawaii. (Credit: NASA)

by Matthew D. Peters
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — Optical communications, transmitting data using infrared lasers, has the potential to help NASA return more data to Earth than ever. The benefits of this technology to exploration and Earth science missions are huge. In support of a mission to demonstrate this technology, NASA recently completed installing its newest optical ground station in Haleakala, Hawaii.

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