Normal silicon circuits that use electricity aren't fast enough for NASA and the future of laser communication. So now NASA is looking to test a true photonic based modem to ensure the fastest, and most reliable, form of communication between space and the ground.
Photonic based computers and chips can provide an incredible amount of bandwidth, which can be crucial when communicating data, like how a modem just needs to pass data through as fast as possible. And they'll be applying this to their new laser communication system, the Laser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD).
This is a huge step in researching realistic and usable fast communication methods that can be used in space to travel long distances. This is almost an evolution of NASA's own OPALs, which is another laser communications experiment that's on the ISS. Essentially, the shot a high-powered laser beam at a tiny target on Earth to transmit packets of data. This new solution should be far faster and show that photonics can be an actual viable solution.