On July 16, 2020, the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) payload was installed and integrated on the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program Satellite 6 (STPSat-6) in preparation for a 2021 launch. As an experimental payload, LCRD will demonstrate the robust capabilities of laser communications, which can provide significant benefits to missions, including bandwidth increases of 10 to 100 times more than radio frequency systems.
Prior to spacecraft integration, the LCRD payload went through several tests and blanket installations at Northrop Grumman’s integration and test facility in Dulles, Virginia. While LCRD underwent testing, Northrop Grumman technicians also prepared the spacecraft for LCRD’s integration. Now that the two components have been fully integrated, they will undergo environmental testing and end-to-end compatibility testing to ensure the spacecraft and payload can properly communicate with one another.