DSOC's Flight Laser Transceiver
The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) technology demonstration's flight laser transceiver is shown at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California in April 2021, before being installed inside its box-like enclosure that was later integrated with NASA's Psyche spacecraft. The transceiver consists of a near-infrared laser transmitter to send high-rate data to Earth, and a sensitive photon-counting camera to receive ground-transmitted low-rate data. The transceiver is mounted on an assembly of struts and actuators – shown in this photograph – that stabilizes the optics from spacecraft vibrations.
The DSOC experiment is the agency's first demonstration of optical communications beyond the Earth-Moon system. DSOC is a system that consists of this flight laser transceiver, a ground laser transmitter, and a ground laser receiver. New advanced technologies have been implemented in each of these elements. The transceiver will "piggyback" on NASA's Psyche spacecraft when it launches in August 2022 to the metal-rich asteroid of the same name. The DSOC technology demonstration will begin shortly after launch and continue as the spacecraft travels from Earth to its gravity-assist flyby of Mars.
JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the project for the Technology Demonstration Missions program within NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, and the Space Communications and Navigation (ScaN) program within the agency's Space Operations Mission Directorate.