NASA is about to launch a laser demo that could revolutionize space communication

This illustration of NASA's Laser Communications Relay Demonstration shows how otherwise invisible infrared lasers could be used to communicate between space missions and ground stations on Earth.

(CNN)The use of invisible lasers in space may sound like something from science fiction, but it's real.

NASA's upcoming Laser Communications Relay Demonstration could revolutionize the way the agency communicates with future missions across the solar system.
These lasers could lead to more high-definition videos and photos from space than ever before, according to the agency.
    The mission is set to launch as a payload aboard the US Department of Defense's Space Test Program Satellite 6 on December 5 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch window will remain open from 4:04 a.m. to 6:04 a.m. ET, and the agency will share live coverage of the launch on NASA TV and its website.
      Since 1958, NASA has used radio waves to communicate with its astronauts and space missions. While radio waves have a proven track record, space missions are becoming more complex and collecting more data than before.
      Think of infrared lasers as the optical communication version of high-speed internet, as opposed to frustratingly slow dial-up internet. Laser communications will send data to Earth from an orbit synchronous with the Earth's rotation, 22,000 miles (35,406 kilometers) above Earth's surface at 1.2 gigabits-per-second, which is like downloading an entire movie in under a minute.
      This will improve data transmission rates 10 to 100 times better than radio waves. Infrared lasers, which are invisible to our eyes, have shorter wavelengths than radio waves, so they can transmit more data at once.