An integrated photonics modem will be tested aboard the International Space Station beginning in 2020 as part of NASA’s multiyear Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD). The cell phone-sized device incorporates optics-based components, such as lasers, switches and wires, onto a microchip.
Once aboard the space station, the Integrated LCRD LEO (Low-Earth Orbit) User Modem and Amplifier (ILLUMA) will serve as a low-Earth orbit terminal for the LCRD.
Integrated photonics technology has a range of potential applications in telecommunications, medical imaging, advanced manufacturing and national defense, and offers high data rates that radio frequency-based communications, NASA said.
“Integrated photonics are like an integrated circuit, except they use light rather than electrons to perform a wide variety of optical functions,” said Don Cornwell, director of NASA’s Advanced Communication and Navigation Division. Read more