back to article Boffins build laser satellite data link

A satellite's radio-communications failing is a crisis if you need to keep it from drifting off station, so a pair of boffins suggest firing up an Earth-bound laser as a backup comms channel. The idea comes from Xinchen Guo of Purdue University and Jekan Thangavelautham of Arizona State University, in a paper they've prepared …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    That's not a moon

    Isn't the orbiting battle station supposed to fire the giant laser at the planet?

    Did somebody have the plans the wrong way up?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That's not a moon

      My far too overactive imagination is picturing this satellite orbiting with its solar panels cut to ribbons by someone accidentally using a too powerful laser.

      Note to self: cut down on SF movie watching.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That's not a moon

        See Zapp Brannigan opening the D.O.O.P. Headquarters by using the ship's laser to cut the ceremonial ribbon for details. :-D

  2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Why mechanically wave a mirror?

    Using a retroreflector to get the light back to the source and an electro-optic modulator reduces required laser power and increases the bandwidth. As a bonus, the device only needs to point at Earth, not a specific base station. If you send laser beams from multiple sites, all sites get (the same) data back.

  3. Dr Scrum Master


    So sharks can communicate via satellite?

    1. Robert Helpmann??

      Re: Sharks?

      So sharks can communicate via satellite?

      Not through the use of a satellite. It means that sharks will be able to communicate with satellites. They will be able to cause them to swivel around and point the reflected beams anywhere in the world. ANYWHERE!

  4. MrDamage


    "In 1917, when Albert Einstein established the theoretic foundation for the laser in his paper "Zur Quantentheorie der Strahlung", his fondest hope was that the resultant device be bitchin'."

  5. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    So basically, Aldis lamps in space? Clever.

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    IIRC typcial NASA "housekeeping"* data rates back to Earth are about 10kbs

    So not much of a change.

    *Stuff like battery cell temperatures, RCS tank pressures and temps, switch settings etc. Not the Mbs data stream for the science stuff.

  7. M7S

    Hello LADEE

    Oh sorry, that's meant to be in a week's time*.

    Still, the non-return of messages won't change.

    Icon on so many levels....

    (*14th, in case you're reading this late)

  8. phuzz Silver badge

    Using solar panels as laser receivers, what a bloody simple idea. Nice work, have one of these on me >>>>>

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm no spacey bofin...

    ...but shouldn't the solar panels be pointing at the Sun, not the Earth?

    1. Esme
      Thumb Up

      Re: I'm no spacey bofin...

      They will be. And whem the sattelie is on the half of its orbit that's over Earth's night side, the sunlight-harvesting side of those panels will be visible from Earth, too

  10. PhillW

    Or........ make the outbound laser so powerful that all the solar cells are pumping out full power and that should power the laser for the return signal!

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