This Friday (September 6), NASA will launch its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft. LADEE will be fitted with a sophisticated laser comm device that will significantly speed up communications with Earth. This is a proof-of-concept mission. The biggest hurdle to overcome is relaying the data almost 240,000 miles to ground telescopes on Earth.
“This pointing challenge is the equivalent of a golfer hitting a ‘hole-in-one’ from a distance of almost five miles… Developers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory have designed a sophisticated system to cancel out the slightest spacecraft vibrations. This is in addition to dealing with other challenges of pointing and tracking the system from such a distance. We are excited about these advancements.”