OPALS is manifested to launch on the third ISS resupply mission by a SpaceX Falcon 9 Dragon in February 2014.
“OPALS represents a tangible stepping stone for laser communications, and the International Space Station is a great platform for an experiment like this,” said Michael Kokorowski, OPALS project manager at JPL. “Future operational laser communication systems will have the ability to transmit more data from spacecraft down to the ground than they currently do, mitigating a significant bottleneck for scientific investigations and commercial ventures.” SEE: NASA’s OPALS to Beam Data From Space Via Laser
|OPALS will be mounted externally on the International Space Station (ISS) in a nadir position on an ExPrESS Logistics Carrier (ELC). Image is credited to NASA/JPL-Caltech.|
The fastest commercial communication links on Earth use optical (or laser) fiber to transmit information. Using laser in space without this fiber is another method. Fast laser communications between Earth and spacecraft like the International Space Station or the Mars rover Curiosity could enhance their connection to the public. OPALS is also used to educate and train NASA personnel. See: Optical PAyload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) – 01.09.14
|OPALS Concept of Operations|