NASA Just Tested a New Experimental Hybrid Antenna for Deep Space Laser Communications | Space

Experimental Hybrid Antenna 1.jpg

NASA says recent tests with an experimental hybrid antenna were successfully able to receive radio frequency and near-infrared laser signals being dispatched from the Psyche spacecraft on its journey into deep space.

The space agency revealed last week that the technology demonstration showcases how large dish antennas currently used by NASA with its Deep Space Network (DSN) can be harnessed for future uses with optical communication that uses lasers.

Since November, Deep Space Station 13 at NASA’s Goldstone complex in California has been tracking the downlink laser originating from the Deep Space Optical Communications flight laser transceiver aboard Psyche.

An Experimental Hybrid Antenna

Deep Space Station 13 has been specially retrofitted with an optical terminal that allows it to receive both radio frequency and laser signals simultaneously. Such capabilities represent a significant asset that will allow portions of the Deep Space Network’s existing infrastructure to be utilized in new ways during future missions, as well as help to maximize the amount of information that can be transmitted in proportion to the growing reliance on the network for current space missions.

Above: Deep Space Station 13 at NASA’s Goldstone complex in California (Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech).

Currently, the Deep Space Network has 14 dishes located at facilities in California and Madrid, as well as Canberra, Australia. By retrofitting these antennas for use in collecting optical information like Deep Space Station 13, NASA may be able to significantly increase the amount of data that can be collected by dividing transmissions between optical and radio methods.

Amy Smith, DSN deputy manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, said the hybrid antenna was successful in locking onto the download link shortly after the tech demonstration.

“It also received Psyche’s radio frequency signal, so we have demonstrated synchronous radio and…

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