New Laser Comm System Arrives at NASA for Artemis Moon Mission

The Orion space capsule has recently received a new piece of essential hardware for use on its upcoming Artemis 2 mission. The mission is set to launch in 2024 and is the second iteration of NASAs Artemis Moon program. Artemis 2 is the first scheduled crewed mission for the Orion capsule and the crew will preform a lunar flyby before returning to Earth.

The Orion capsule has recently been outfitted with a new laser communication module which will allow for increased rates for high speed data transfers which the Artemis 2 astronauts will use for sending information and data back to the ground stations on Earth. The laser communication system is known as the Optical Communication System (O2O) can provide rates up to 260 megabits per second, fast enough to send down 4k high definition video from the moon. Not only will the O2O system be used for sending down mission image data, it will also be used for transmitting and receiving procedures from the ground and essential flight plans.

The use of an optical communication system also provides unique investigation from a space cybersecurity perspective. Some schools of thought believe that optical communication systems will provide greater and increased security when compared to an RF system. Optical communication systems offer a lower beam spread when compared to RF. In theory this could make optical systems more resistant to being jammed than a traditional RF based communication system. Due to the narrow beam, it is believed that that extremely precise maneuvers are required for a satellite to be able to intercept data being transferred via an optical beam which would provide some increased level of security. In addition, there is also research being done which shows that optical systems could have increased security benefits from a keying perspective as well. In general, more further investigation and research is warranted on the use of optical systems in relation to their cybersecurity benefits or downfalls, but the upside from a data streaming perspective absolutely makes the O2O system useful in many space communications system architectures and CONOPS.