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NASA’s TBIRD Mission Demonstrates 1.4TB Optical Downlink

By | December 6, 2022

Rendering of NASA’s TBIRD space-to-ground optical communications demonstration. Screenshot via NASA//Twitter

NASA’s TBIRD mission recently achieved a record for optical communications in space. The satellite downlinked 1.4 terabytes of data over laser communications links in a single pass that lasted about five minutes. The agency confirmed the demonstration Dec. 1

The TBIRD payload — TeraByte InfraRed Delivery — was built by built by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory and integrated into NASA’s Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator 3 Satellite (PTD-3), built by Terran Orbital. This is part of NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program.

The TBIRD mission is testing laser communications in Low-Earth Orbit on a small satellite, which NASA believes can substantially increase data transport capabilities. NASA’s goal for the mission is to demonstrate a downlink of 200 gigabits per second.

“Terran Orbital is grateful for NASA and MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s partnership in the PTD-3 mission. We look forward to completing the next record-breaking space-to-ground optical link – at 200 gigabits per second – in the near future,” commented Marc Bell, CEO of Terran Orbital.