NASA to Test X-ray Communication System on the ISS
Radio waves are still the main way to communicate with spacecraft, but that aging technology could soon get an upgrade that will allow faster data downloads from space. NASA is currently preparing to test out an X-ray communication system on the International Space Station.
The project, known as XCOM, will make use of equipment already onboard the ISS for different purposes. The Neutron-star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) is currently perched on the outside of the space station, where it's scanning the cosmos for X-ray emissions coming from neutron stars.
But NICER is no one-trick pony. In 2017, NASA engineers demonstrated how the instrument could use data from millisecond pulsars as a kind of space-GPS, precisely calculating the position of the ISS to within 3 miles (4.8 km). It is this potential to pick up X-ray signals that makes it a good candidate for a receiver in an X-ray communication system.
By Michael Irving, NEW ATLAS