Reconfigurable 100Gbit/s laser links for satellite comms

Reconfigurable 100Gbit/s laser links for satellite comms

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Coherent (formerly II-VI) is to develop reconfigurable laser transceivers for flexible satellite communications up to 100Gbit/s in orbit in a US project.

The project for the Space-Based Adaptive Communications Node (Space-BACN) program comes from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). This will create low-cost, high-speed, reconfigurable, laser-based data links that will enable communications between various government and private-sector low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellations.

Various incompatible and often proprietary optical intersatellite links (OISLs) prevent LEO satellite arrays from readily sharing information. Coherent is specifically tasked with designing and fabricating coherent optical transceivers for a reconfigurable modem compatible with most existing single-wavelength communications protocols and able to readily adapt to work with new waveforms as they are introduced.

The aim is to support multiple optical waveforms at total data rates of up to 100 Gbit/s on a single wavelength, while simultaneously meeting stringent size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) constraints.

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“Advances in digital technology, together with falling launch costs, have made it possible for many groups to launch constellations of compact satellites possessing a multitude of capabilities, enabled by high-speed laser communications,” said Dr. Chris Koeppen, Chief Technology Officer. “Beyond just defense applications, these satellite arrays offer tremendous potential for low-cost global communications, sensing, imaging, space exploration, and more.”

The current award to Coherent is a Phase 1 contract within Technical Area 2 (TA2) of the Space-BACN development program focused on modem architecture. Coherent already participated in Phase 0 of TA2, which involved developing the architectural design for these components, and was selected for Phase 1 based on the success of that work.

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