Recently, NASA marked 20 straight years of having a human in space. Part of what makes this stunning achievement possible is inventing and implementing reliable communications systems. To honor this, NASA recently posted an article entitled, “The International Space Station: 20 Years of Communications Excellence.” –By Brian Hurlburt, Magnifying Excellence Podcast Host.
For sure, these communications were important for NASA and those inhabiting the space station, but what was developed for “up there” has also had a major impact on earth’s communications systems. And as technology evolved, so did the space station’s systems.
“The space station was designed in the 1990s. Recall our way of life then. A typical internet service provider had people to ‘dial up’ to get access to use of the internet. As the space station evolved with ever-advancing instruments, space communications evolved with timely innovations,” said SCaN Mission Commitment Manager John Hudiburg in the website article. “Investments in the ground segment have allowed us to keep pace with these needs, delivering more data to mission operations centers than ever before.”
Also according to the article:
“Throughout its history, the space station has also served as a hub for communications research and development. From 2012 to 2019, the SCaN Testbed provided communications engineers with a platform to study space-based applications of software-defined radios. The Testbed researched innovations like cognitive communications, space-based GPS, and Ka-band communications.
“The station has also tested revolutionary optical communications technologies that use infrared lasers to exceed data-rates offered by comparable radio systems. The Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science proved the practicality space-to-ground optical communications. The upcoming Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) — launching in early 2021 — will test TDRS-like applications of optical communications with the station with the Integrated LCRD Low-Earth Orbit User Modem and Amplifier Terminal (ILLUMA-T). When operational, ILLUMA-T will complete the first end-to-end optical communications space relay system ever built.
The ongoing research is also said to have a major impact on the future of commercial space travel.