The spacecraft's instrument payload includes three science instruments. The mission's magnetometer is designed to detect and measure the remnant magnetic field of the asteroid. The multispectral imager will provide high-resolution images using filters to discriminate between Psyche's metallic and silicate constituents. Its gamma ray and neutron spectrometer will detect, measure and map Psyche's elemental composition. The mission also will test a sophisticated new laser communications technology, called Deep Space Optical Communications.
Deep space communications over a distance of circa 5 AU is certainly possible and I assume that the plan is to demonstrate it. I'm wondering how big of a telescope1 will be used on Psyche end of the link to collect photons from cis-lunar space and collimate a laser beam back to it.
Question: How big of a telescope will Psyche's deep space optical communications demonstrator use out at 5 AU?
1 Yes telescope. We might think of a transmitting laser collimator and receiving photodiode collector as just a concentrator, but the optics is at minimum that of a single-pixel telescope. Since they will likely have some communications guidance imaging ability (separate from and more precise than spacecraft attitude control) through the optical system itself, it will have to produce high resolution images outside of the spot at the focal plane split off for communications.
- Quantitatively, why will optical communication be better than X-band for deep-space communications?
- How is long-distance optical communications coming along in space?
- Will future deep space optical communications "ground stations" actually be in space, or on the ground?
- Are there plans or a program for an optical relay pathfinder for deep space?
- Long delay-doppler measurements on deep space craft; couldn't optical measurements be made intermittently, mixed with contacts to other spacecraft?