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NASA Tasks JPL with Implementing Deep Space Optical Communications Project

By IQT News posted 30 Mar 2020

(EurekaAlert) NASA has tasked JPL with implementing the Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) project–a mission to establish a laser communication link over the <3 A.U. distance between the asteroid Psyche-16 and Earth [1]. Enabling this unprecedented application are Superconducting Nanowire Single Photon Detectors [2] (SNSPDs), a technology engineered jointly at JPL and NIST and further optimized and used at In-Q-Net's [3] quantum network user facilities at Fermilab and Caltech (FQNET, CQNET). As a first step Caltech and JPL have designed a practical, high rate high-fidelity quantum communication system over fiber and free space. The team is on track to deploy, commission and demonstrate both concepts, including a free-space, municipal quantum link between JPL and Caltech, in 2020-21. In the next phase the team plans to develop and implement FPGA-based, real-time quantum communications and use the adaptive optics system at JPL's Table Mountain Facility (TMF) one meter telescope to optimize the communication rate--thereby qualifying TMF for future space-ground quantum links using small-sats & other platforms. This can be used to establish a space-based quantum optical connection between the Caltech-JPL quantum network and quantum networks in the midwest (Fermlab's FQNET and IEQNET together with ANL), the south (Oak Ridge National Laboratory), the northeast (Lincoln Labs, BNL), the northwest (SLAC, LBNL) as well as other research nodes and potential industrial testbeds in development nationally and internationally.

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