Deep Space Optical Communications system’s gold-capped flight laser transceiver can be seen near center, attached to the Psyche spacecraft.

NASA declared a groundbreaking achievement on Thursday, successfully receiving data through its Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment. The near-infrared laser, carrying test data, traveled nearly 10 million miles to the Hale Telescope at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory, setting a record far surpassing the Moon’s distance from Earth.

This “first light” moment signifies a pivotal step in revolutionizing data transmission across the solar system. Trudy Kortes, NASA’s Technology Demonstrations Director, hailed it as a milestone towards enabling high-definition imagery, video streaming, and scientific data transmission, crucial for future endeavors like human missions to Mars.

Comparing the shift from traditional to optical communication akin to the leap to fiber optics, NASA predicts a 10 to 100 times enhancement in transmission capacity over current radio systems used in spacecraft.

DSOC, comprising a flight laser transceiver and ground components, hitched a ride on NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, en route to explore the metal-rich asteroid Psyche 16. This milestone marks DSOC’s maiden optical communication demonstration beyond the Moon, achieving a pivotal phase in its mission aboard the Psyche spacecraft.