Army will use lasers to cubesats for 50 times faster communication

NASA and the US Army have tested 100 megabit per second laser communication with a cubesat. This is 50 times better than 2 megabit per second radio communication to cubesats that are currently used.

Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) CubeSat could be improved to 2.5 gigabits per second with relatively simple upgrades to the attitude control system and a few other systems. This would open the possibility of using small satellites in applications, such as synthetic aperture radar or hyperspectral Earth imaging, that produce volumes of data far beyond the capacity of radio-frequency downlink systems. It is also possible to use these satellites as data relay nodes in low-Earth orbit. Having several small satellites has the potential to provide low-latency, high-rate communications as a service for other satellites in orbit around Earth.

The OCSD cubesats are small and simple and do not have adjustable mirrors to aim their laser beams. Instead, the whole satellite rotates. It uses a sophisticated steering system — complete with tiny star trackers that takes bearings off the constellations — to aim itself within 1/40th of a degree of the intended target

2 thoughts on “Army will use lasers to cubesats for 50 times faster communication”

  1. This is more for tactical uses, so more along the lines of relaying between multiple BACN pod aircraft, which do the RF conversion to communicate with groundpounders.

  2. The plan for the Starlink constellation includes laser communication as a backbone between satellites. I think there will be two constellations. One that talks to ground clients by microwave, and one that “serves” the previously mentioned constellation by laser. It occurs to me that this will end up being much cheaper than traditional fiber optic solutions.
    If the Army uses laser from the ground, they should maintain earth stations at widely separated points in deserts, and high mountains. The redundancy would increase availability versus weather, or military conflict. A high altitude tethered blimp, or dirigible would work well too, particularly as an emergency measure. Doubtless a dirigible would make a better optical bench. The military could commandeer an existing cell tower, and have a ready made anchor for lighter than air operations, as well as power, and fiber cable already installed.

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