A NASA satellite launched Saturday to test a laser-based communication system that could revolutionize space communications, officials said.
Launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the SES-8 satellite has a novel laser communication system that requires no satellite jammers to change the blue light from transmitting a signal into red light.
“This mission is truly groundbreaking. It will show the ability to design and build a high-energy laser fast enough to meet the needs of this space mission,” said Joe Miller, SES USA general manager, during a pre-launch briefing.
“We don’t want to wait to get there. We want to get there faster.”
A previous drone launch sent NASA’s Cicada. It is designed to operate at up to 60,000 feet (18,246 meters) above the Earth, using laser beams to transmit data in higher bandwidths than ever before. The Cicada’s laser beam had three times the energy and a depth of about 10 feet (3 meters) of the 7 feet of light emitted by current satellites, NASA said.
“The balloon’s balloon — or ‘pitch’ — carried the Cicada satellite into space where it will remain for one year, providing researchers an opportunity to gather new information on this powerful communication system that enables significant research into communications and other space-based activities,” NASA said.