HONOLULU, Hawaii – Senator Will Espero, along with officials from NASA, today held a press conference urging the approval of Senate Bill 2583 Senate Draft 1, a bill related to launching Hawaii’s aerospace industry through investment in a laser optical communications ground station. The measure is awaiting a hearing in the House Finance committee.
The purpose of the measure is to appropriate funds, on a matching fund basis, for an engineering assessment of a proposal to establish a laser optical communications ground station in Hawaii to be conducted jointly by NASA and the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES). The study would include site surveillance and selection, an analysis of power and cooling requirements, environmental assessments and permits, an assessment of structural pads, and an analysis of roadways and clearances for the transportation of communications equipment. NASA also has the potential of investing up to $75 million into the project.
NASA currently communicates with its spacecraft through the use of Radio Frequency (RF) ground antennas. However, the ever increasing data rate requirements from more sophisticated instruments will soon surpass NASA’s ability to support ground antennas.
For the same mass and power, space laser communications technology has the potential to provide 10 to 100 times higher data rates than traditional RF systems. In 2013, this new technology was demonstrated with the Luna Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) experiment aboard the Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft, which is now orbiting the moon.
“Aerospace technology research is a rapidly growing industry that has a lot of potential here on the islands,” said Espero, who introduced the measure. “NASA’s statistical analysis of weather patterns have found Hawaii to be the best location for its first operational laser communications station in a planned global network of ground stations. The project would have an astronomical effect on the economic future, by providing opportunities for improvements in Hawaii’s broadband and fiber optic infrastructure and providing high-tech jobs for our people.”