Whereas the TeraByte InfraRed Supply system makes use of a laser, you are not going to see pink beams of sunshine firing down from the heavens like one thing out of Star Wars. Because the identify suggests, the system depends on invisible infrared beams which will not hurt your eyes, encoding knowledge into the oscillations of sunshine waves within the laser it makes use of. When it’s time to transmit, TBIRD beams its knowledge down throughout a number of infrared wavelengths to maximise the quantity of information that may be despatched. Whereas it’s nonetheless an electromagnetic wave, infrared mild has a lot increased frequencies than radio waves, permitting extra knowledge to be transmitted. TBIRD can obtain a knowledge switch price 2,000 occasions increased than what could be achieved with radio waves.
TBIRD is the scale of a daily tissue field and is housed inside NASA’s Pathfinder Expertise Demonstrator 3 CubeSat, launched into area on Could 25, 2022, and is the scale of two stacked cereal bins. The PTD-3 makes use of response wheels to make sure the TBIRD is accurately oriented to transmit knowledge right down to the bottom station at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
Because of the hyper-directionality of laser communications and the impacts atmospheric results and climate situations can have on the transmission, the bottom station additionally employs an internally developed protocol to inform TBIRD which knowledge it acquired accurately in order that the satellite tv for pc can resend solely the frames which weren’t acquired, saving time and vitality.