Testing of laser communication terminals in low ground orbit by the US Department of Defense

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Testing of laser communication terminals in low ground orbit by the US Department of Defense

The Spatial Development Agency said the links between optical satellites "are one of the most important technologies to be demonstrated."

Washington - Optical communication terminals that use lasers to radiate data into space will be tested in future experiments by the Space Development Agency and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

These terminals are important parts of the Ministry of Defense's low-altitude constellation in the future that require satellite-to-satellite optical lines, so data collected in space can be sent immediately to military command centers on Earth. Laser communication systems have much faster data transfer speeds than radio systems, but the Pentagon has concerns about the impact of space radiation on optical terminals.

"Optical inter-satellite links are one of the most important technologies needed to represent Tranche 0," the space development agency acknowledged in a proposal for its communications constellations known in the transport layer. Tranche 0 is the initial deployment scheduled for 2022.

The transport layer satellites have to transmit data from space to Earth for military users with very little delay. "Without the display of connecting lines between optical satellites - using radio frequency (RF) as a backup," the SDA says, this fast transfer will not happen. Another concern with the use of lasers to communicate optical satellites from space to Earth is the penetration of the Earth's atmosphere, especially through the clouds.

The SDA plans to build one or more constellations containing hundreds of satellites for communications and missile tracking. The program intends to purchase optical terminals from various vendors, so it has asked volunteers to ensure that their hardware interacts with other vendors. Several companies are building advanced optical terminals for deep-space communications at NASA, following standard standards. But according to the SDA, there is no acceptable industry standard for connections between optical satellites in orbits below the Earth's orbit.

In its proposal for Purposal, the SDA includes a proposed standard for communication with each other, but to ensure the compatibility of their systems, it has also developed the necessary collaboration for suppliers. Works, General Atomics electromagnetic systems. GA-EMS announced on June 5 that it had reached an agreement with the agency to conduct a number of interconnection tests using optical satellites using the company's laser communication terminals. "These tests demonstrate strong communication capabilities through a variety of media, from Earth to satellites in various orbits and deep space," said Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS.

  • For the test, which is set to launch in March 2021, the company will produce two cubic U12 satellites, each hosting an infrared and a laser communication terminal.

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