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Cat video helps ASU-led Psyche mission successfully test 'space broadband'

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Wednesday, December 20, 2023 - 1:03pm

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Man points at computer screen with cat video on it
Members of DSOC team react to the first high-definition streaming video to be sent via laser from deep space on Dec. 11, 2023.

The ASU-led Psyche mission has reached a milestone in testing a kind of “space broadband.”

NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) system can multiply data speeds 10- to 100-fold compared to current radio systems, which NASA has used for more than half a century.

KJZZ has been following the mission.

For the first time, a tightly packed train of near-infrared laser pulses has delivered high-definition video to Earth from more than 18 million miles away.

Appropriately, it showed a cat named Taters chasing a laser pointer.

But it’s not just another cat video: It’s also a call back to 1928, when RCA/NBC tested TV transmissions using a statue of the cartoon character Felix the Cat.

NASA needs the new system, which is comparable to high-speed internet, to meet expanding mission demands and to handle high-def images and video from future missions to Mars.

NASA will continue testing DSOC for nearly two years.

In 2029, the robotic craft will reach, orbit and study its true target: (16) Psyche, where it will map the features, structure, composition and magnetic field of one of only nine known iron-nickel asteroids in the solar system.

The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) transceiver is inside a large tube-like sunshade and telescope on the Psyche spacecraft, here inside a clean room at JPL. An earlier photo, inset, shows the DSOC before it was integrated with the spacecraft.

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