Optical Satellite Comunications

Published : 01-01-2015 by : Pawan Janorkar

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Satellite cross links generally require narrower bandwidths for increased power concentration. We can increase the power concentration by increasing the cross link frequency with the same size antenna. But the source technology and the modulation hardware required at these higher frequency bands are still in the development stage.

Use of optical frequencies will help to overcome this problem with the availability of feasible light sources and the existence of efficient optical modulation communications links with optical beams are presently being given serious considerations in inter-satellite links. And establishing an optical cross link requires first the initial acquisition and cracking of the beacon by the transmitting satellite followed by a pointing of the LASER beam after which data can be modulated and transmitted.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has programmed underway to place Satellites carrying optical terminals in GEO orbit within the next decade. The first is the ARTEMIS technology demonstration satellite which carries both microwave and SILEX (Semiconductor Laser Intro satellite Link Experiment) optical inter orbit communications terminal. SILEX employs direct detection and GaAIAs diode laser technology;

the optical antenna is a 25cm diameter reflecting telescope. The SILEX GEO terminal is capable of receiving data modulated on to an incoming laser beam at a bit rate of 50 Mbps and is equipped with a high power beacon for initial link acquisition together with a low divergence (and un-modulated) beam which is tracked by the communicating partner. ARTEMIS will be followed by the operational European data relay system (EDRS) which is planned to have data relay Satellites (DRS). These will also carry SILEX optical data relay terminals.

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