NASA is just like the rest of us when it comes to wanting faster wireless data rates. But the space agency has one option that's not likely to be offered by major carriers anytime soon: a prototype laser communications system called OPALS (Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science). The system can transmit laser beams between Earth and orbit that are 100 times narrower than radio waves currently used for orbital communications.

using lasers as methods of cosmic communication

NASA plans to test out the new OPALS system in October by launching it aboard the International Space Station, which will send video data through one of the OPALS lasers to a receiving station in Wrightwood, California, some 250 miles below. Each test beam will last two-and-a-half minutes but the entire testing period will be three months long.

Whatever comes of this test, NASA is clearly becoming increasingly interested in using lasers as methods of cosmic communication, successfully beaming an image of the Mona Lisa to a satellite orbiting the Moon some 240,000 miles away in January, the first ever interplanetary laser transmission. NASA is also clearly looking to send more live video back to Earth, as seen in the recent first-ever space station Google Plus Hangout.