Rahul Rao reports via Space.com:
On Nov. 14, NASA picked up a laser signal fired from an instrument that launched with the Psyche spacecraft, which is currently more than 10 million miles (16 million kilometers) from Earth and heading toward a mysterious metal asteroid. (The spacecraft is at more than 40 times the average distance of Earth’s moon, and still voyaging afar.) The moment marked the first successful test of NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) system, a next-generation comms link that sends information not by radio waves but instead by laser light. It’s part of a series of tests NASA is doing to speed up communications in deep space, on different missions.
“Achieving first light is a tremendous achievement. The ground systems successfully detected the deep space laser photons from DSOC,” Abi Biswas, the system’s project technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, said in an agency statement.
“And we were also able to send some data, meaning we were able to exchange ‘bits of light’ from and to deep space,” Biswas added.