lasers in space

You may have seen in the news recently that laser technology has reached outer space in a number of ways! From making our internet speed faster to helping combat arising issues from deforestation, lasers are being used outside of our atmosphere to conquer and solve many scientific and everyday issues.

Keep on reading to get an overview about how lasers will be contributing to the aerospace industry moving forward.

Here Are a Few New Ways Lasers Are Being Used in Space

Below, we’ve listed five great ways aerospace has utilized the technological advances of lasers to produce amazing results.

1. Detecting Climate Change and Ice Loss

NASA’s ICESat-2 has been a recent trending topic in the aerospace community. With this laser, the rate at which polar ice melts can be tracked, helping to determine the extent of rising sea levels. Some key facts:

  • The lasers on board, with one being a backup, are not hot enough to melt ice given their 300-mile distance from Earth, but they have the ability to fire 10,000 times in just one second – a big increase from the original ICESat which only fired 40 shots per second.
  • NASA’s statement about the technology, as reported on phys.org, states “The mission will gather enough data to estimate the annual elevation change in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets even if it’s as slight as four millimeters – the width of a No. 2 pencil.”

Not to mention, the laser can not only measure the area the ice covers, but also the height and slope of the ice as well.

2. Laser License Plates

To overcome a major challenge in the aerospace community, scientists in Utah have created a “license plate” to help with the identification of CubeSats, a type of miniaturized satellite.

The methodology utilizes a low-energy, small laser on the outside of the CubeSat, which then sends I.D. codes that can be seen by telescopes on Earth.

Rebecca Holmes of Los Alamos National Laboratory stressed the importance of the development, stating that “CubeSats are being launched in larger and larger groups, and, for most CubeSat operators, they have no way of telling which object is theirs immediately after launch.”

3. Lasers for Better Internet

A start-up in Singapore is plotting an “ambitious plan” to try and deliver faster internet speeds by shooting lasers from space.

To accomplish this, they are creating a technology that can beam data to satellites in the sky, thus removing the need for cables. If they are successful, we could potentially get our hands on a few hundred gigabits per second for our internet speed, which is 100x faster than what is currently available.

Tech in Asia had the opportunity to interview the CEO of this creative start-up, Rohit Jha, where he answered why he chose wireless communications, and the advantages that this laser innovation would have over our wired internet. He stated:

“You can’t put cables in space. Our vision is to reimagine communications for the next 50 to 100 years on this planet and in deep space… All space-based communications are currently on 100-year-old radio waves. The result is that connections from Mars are worse than a ’90s internet dial-up on earth. The best billion-dollar satellites have reached a limit on their speed and bandwidth.”

4. Forest Monitoring from Space

NASA’s GEDI (Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation) mission will be launching in November and will utilize a high-resolution laser to help study topography and forests from the International Space Station.

This mission was created in order to learn more about the effects of deforestation on carbon monoxide levels, along with how much carbon forests would be able to absorb in the future.

NASA will be using LIDAR technology (light detection and ranging) to shoot energy pulses at the ground and then record their return timing. This data is then used to form a 3D image, in a full-waveform or vertical observation, that can present the ground topography and forest canopy above it to be used in research.

5. Precise Distance and Satellite Navigation

Ever wanted to know the exact distance between the moon and Earth? Well, now you can, thanks to scientists at ITMO University who designed a laser for precise measurement.

The laser features high power and short pulse duration to help make fewer errors in finding the exact distance between the celestial bodies, which is now down to just millimeters!

The article on phys.org also goes on to address how because of this research, satellite navigation will be improved since the moon’s coordinates are taken into account for calculating satellite positions.

“The accuracy of such locators depends on the laser features. For example, the shorter the pulse and the smaller the laser’s beam divergence, the easier it is to measure the distance between the laser and the moon.”

Get More Laser News on TYKMA Electrox’s Blog

Looking to read more interesting articles about lasers and all they can do? Our blog is filled with posts dedicated to laser capabilities, highlighting laser marking, laser engraving, and more:

Who Is TYKMA Electrox?

We are the laser marking experts. TYKMA Electrox is a leading manufacturer of industrial laser marking systems designed for all types of applications, markets, and materials. Some of our products include:

We also have a new line of full-featured, entry-level laser engravers, LaserGear, designed especially for small businesses and hobbyists.

Be sure to come see our laser marking abilities in person at the various trade shows we attend throughout the year. In the meantime, you can follow us on social media to learn more about our laser products, see video demos, and more: