NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment successfully transmitted a 15-second test video of a cat named Taters from a record distance of 19 million miles away from Earth on December 11.
The video was sent at 267 megabits per second using a flight laser transceiver on the spaceship Psyche to beam encoded near-infrared signals.
It took only 101 seconds to reach Earth and was received by the Hale Telescope at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory.
This technology demonstration shows the potential for streaming very high bandwidth data from deep space to enable future human exploration missions.
The laser communications system launched with Psyche is designed to transmit data up to 100 times faster than traditional radio systems.
As the spacecraft travels toward Mars, the tech demo will beam signals over millions of miles to demonstrate high-speed laser comms.
To commemorate this milestone, the team created a short 15-second video featuring an orange tabby cat named Taters playing with a laser pointer.
Graphics overlayed on the video showcase information about the comms system like Psyche’s orbit path and the laser’s 267 megabit per second transmission rate.
Ryan Rogalin, who worked on the project for the JET Propulsion Lab, said, “Despite transmitting from millions of miles away, it was able to send the video faster than most broadband internet connections.”
The Magellan Mission on Venus in the 90s sent 1.2 terabytes of data for its entire four-year mission.
By comparison, Psyche was able to send 1.3 terabytes in just a few seconds.
This technology opens up many possible opportunities as humans begin to look to longer-range manned missions to other planets like Mars where faster, more dependable communications will be a necessity.