In a successful demonstration of new laser communications capabilities, NASA beamed an ultra-high definition video across 19 million miles of space from its Psyche spacecraft to Earth earlier this month. It’s the first time a UHD streaming video has been sent from deep space via laser. The history-making video? A 15-second clip of an orange cat named Taters chasing a laser dot.
The signal from the video, sent on December 11, made it to Earth in 101 seconds from Psyche’s location at the time, which was about 80 times as far as the distance between Earth and the moon. It was uploaded before the mission launched, and sent back home by a flight laser transceiver aboard Psyche at a rate of 267Mbps. The spacecraft, which set off on its journey in October, is on its way to study a metal-rich asteroid in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
“Despite transmitting from millions of miles away, it was able to send the video faster than most broadband internet connections,” said Ryan Rogalin, the receiver electronics lead for the project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. “In fact, after receiving the video at Palomar, it was sent to JPL over the internet, and that connection was slower than the signal coming from deep space.”