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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United Launch Alliance Atlas V Launches Critical National Security Mission Direct to GEO

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launches on the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) mission from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. The mission’s Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6) spacecraft hosts NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) and the NASA-U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph (UVSC) Pathfinder. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla., Dec. 7, 2021 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Space Test Program (STP)-3 mission for the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command lifted off on Dec. 7 at 5:19 a.m. EST from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. To date ULA has launched 147 times with 100 percent mission success. STP-3 marked ULA’s longest duration mission at seven hours and 10 minutes until spacecraft separation.

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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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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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NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

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NASA’s Next Laser Communications Demo Installed, Integrated on Spacecraft

Northrop Grumman technicians in front of the LCRD payload fully installed and integrated on the Space Test Program Satellite (STPSat-6). (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On July 16, 2020, the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) payload was installed and integrated on the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program Satellite 6 (STPSat-6) in preparation for a 2021 launch.

As an experimental payload, LCRD will demonstrate the robust capabilities of laser communications, which can provide significant benefits to missions, including bandwidth increases of 10 to 100 times more than radio frequency systems.

Prior to spacecraft integration, the LCRD payload went through several tests and blanket installations at Northrop Grumman’s integration and test facility in Dulles, Virginia. While LCRD underwent testing, Northrop Grumman technicians also prepared the spacecraft for LCRD’s integration.

Now that the two components have been fully integrated, they will undergo environmental testing and end-to-end compatibility testing to ensure the spacecraft and payload can properly communicate with one another.

LCRD will be NASA’s first two-way optical relay, sending and receiving data from missions in space to mission control on Earth. LCRD is paving the way for future optical communications missions, which could use LCRD to relay their data to the ground.

In 2022, the Integrated LCRD Low-Earth Orbit User Modem and Amplifier Terminal (ILLUMA-T), hosted on the International Space Station, will be the first LCRD demonstration from low-Earth orbit.

LCRD was built by Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, before being shipped to the Northrop Grumman facility in January 2020. LCRD is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, and managed by NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions and the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program office.