NASA has started preparing equipment for a test session of data transmission using X-rays. The ISS was chosen as the location for the experiment, where the necessary instruments are located. It is a module for studying neutron stars NICER and a modulated X-ray source MXS.
NICER is a multifunctional tool. For example, its ability to capture millisecond pulses from pulsars made it possible to create a space-based analogue of the GPS system. With its help, the position of the ISS in space is calculated with an accuracy of 4.8 km. It will act as a signal receiver in the new communication system. The source will be MXS - a device specially designed for this purpose, which can "shoot" X-ray pulses of short duration. It will allow you to encode information in them with a simple binary code.
The distance between NICER and MXS at the first stage will be only 50 m, they are located outside the ISS, in line of sight. While we are talking about checking the principle itself, the possibility of using this type of communication. The next stage is the development of special coding and data transfer protocols. This is due to the fact that X-rays, like laser radiation, use shorter wavelengths than radio communications. This means that much more information can be packed into a small pulse, and the data exchange rate will be completely different.
Another important advantage of X-ray communication is the ability of radiation to pass through what is an obstacle to radio waves. For example, through plasma clouds that close spacecraft when entering the dense layers of the Earth's atmosphere, which is why communication with them is lost for this time. The use of this type of communication on the planet itself is not excluded, in some cases. The tests will begin in a few months.