05 25 22


The New TBIRD Laser Communications System From MIT Lincoln Laboratory

TeraByte InfraRed Delivery

Terran Orbital built and launched the Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator (PTD) 3 spacecraft on behalf of NASA, the second in a series of missions that will test the operation of a variety of novel CubeSat technologies in low-Earth orbit, providing significant enhancements to the performance of these small and effective spacecraft. Over the course of multiple planned PTD missions, the successful demonstration of new subsystem technologies will increase small spacecraft capabilities enabling direct infusion into a wider range of future science and exploration missions.

The PTD missions utilize a Terran Orbital Corporation’s state-of-the-art MKII Avionics platform. The 6-unit (6U) spacecraft, named Triumph, is common to all PTD missions and easily accommodates different technology payloads being demonstrated without the need to redesign the spacecraft each time completely. In addition to providing the spacecraft, Terran Orbital also serves as the integrator for each technology payload into its respective spacecraft and performs in-orbit mission operations from the Terran Orbital mission operations center after each launch.​

The PTD3 mission launched on May 25th, 2022, and hosts the TeraByte InfraRed Delivery (TBIRD) payload funded by NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program and developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory (MITLL). The mission will demonstrate a space-to-ground data transfer capability at orders of magnitude faster than previously demonstrated technologies. This technology could open doors to large-volume data communications and data accessibility for advanced space exploration— delivering multiple terabytes of data per day to a single ground station.

Each PTD mission consists of a 6U CubeSat weighing approximately 12 kilograms and measuring 36 cm × 23 cm × 10 cm. Each PTD spacecraft will also be equipped with deployable solar arrays to provide a peak power of 120 watts while in orbit.






NASA Ames Research Center


6U Satellite

Launch Date

May 25, 2022

Launch Vehicle

Space X Falcon-9

Mission Length


Mission Completion


Space X Falcon-9

SpaceX launched several dozen payloads on its fifth dedicated rideshare mission on May 25, 2022. The Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 2:35 p.m. Eastern.

The Transporter-5 mission carried 59 payloads, which SpaceX described as including satellites, orbital transfer vehicles, and non-deploying hosted payloads.

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