In May of 2021, NASA announced a new system to stay on track with ever-increasing data being sent from space to Earth: laser communication systems.
New technologies and instruments capable of gathering more data than ever before are increasingly being used for space missions. So in order to send this data back to Earth as quickly, and safely as possible, NASA plans to substitute the current old-fashioned radio frequency communications with laser communications, also known as optical communications.
On May 12, NASA announced that its Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will launch this summer to showcase the power of these technologies and today was the mission’s official launch date.
Now, the mission meant to send this new technology to space has been scrubbed. “During initial operations, a leak was discovered in the Rocket-Propellant-1 (RP-1) ground storage system. Launch is now scheduled for Mon., Dec. 6 at 4:04 am EST,” said a ULA Twitter post.
The launch of a ULA #AtlasV 551 rocket carrying the #STP3 mission for the @SpaceForceDOD @USSF_SSC has been scrubbed. During initial operations, a leak was discovered in the Rocket-Propellant-1 (RP-1) ground storage system. Launch is now scheduled for Mon., Dec. 6 at 4:04am EST.
— ULA (@ulalaunch) December 5, 2021
The mission would have launched aboard an Atlas V551 rocket and is called the STP3.
LAUNCH UPDATE: Liftoff of our Laser Communications Relay Demonstration is now Monday, Dec. 6 at 4:04am ET (09:04 UTC): https://t.co/DL87kyIfcZ
— NASA (@NASA) December 5, 2021
Laser communications are set to vastly improve the way data is transmitted back to Earth, accelerating the entire process, and succeeding in transferring between 10 to 100 times more data than current outdated radio frequency systems. For example, it currently takes around nine weeks for a map of Mars to be transmitted down to Earth, but with laser communications, this time would be minimized down to nine days.