Laser Satellitecommunication


Overview of our projects

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This project focuses on the development of Optical Satellite Communication. Optical inter-satellite links, where satellites act as network nodes that reroute traffic to users, are essential for direct point-to-point connectivity with extremely accurate positioning while keeping costs low for deployment in large mega-constellations. The development of prototypes in this project is crucial for the new generation of inter-satellite link terminals.

Laser Satcom03 is dedicated to developing technologies and systems to support a sovereign European quantum communication infrastructure as part of the EU's EuroQCI initiative. This project aims to provide an extremely secure method of data transmission and storage within the EU, using Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) for security. The infrastructure will be a combination of existing fiber networks and satellite connections for long distances. Within the project, we specifically focus on developing optical ground stations that enable quantum communication channels via satellites, which are essential for bridging greater distances within the network. The first functional prototypes of these ground stations are expected to be ready around 2025/2026, with the goal of ensuring secure storage and communication of data in the quantum era.

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Satellite-Ground QKD

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Deep space

This project is part of the international Artemis program and combines public and private initiatives for transport and data communication, such as NASA's CLPS program for commercial lunar landers and ESA's Moonlight initiative for data communication. With increasing activities in deep space, there is a growing need for more efficient data communication. The project aims to develop a 'Deep Space Optical Terminal' (DOT), which uses Dutch optomechatronics and systems engineering to create a compact system that enables high data speeds at lower costs per megabit. The technology, based on High-Photon-Efficiency (HPE), will be integrated into a flight-ready prototype that will be tested during a lunar mission, with the aim of commercial exploitation after a successful demonstration.

The Smallsat – Ground Direct to Earth (DTE) project focuses on developing advanced laser communication technologies for small satellites (under 100 kg) to facilitate high-throughput, highly secure data communication at low costs. With a growing demand for secure, timely data from small satellite constellations, laser communication is crucial for meeting the future demands of these constellations. It offers significantly higher data speeds than current RF systems and improves security due to the narrow beam width. It also helps to overcome challenges associated with licensing traditional radio frequency communication.

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Smallsat-Ground Direct to Earth

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Ground-SatelliteFeeder link

Within the Laser Satcom06 project, we are focused on developing ground stations that can handle telecommunication connections at very high throughput rates, ultimately exceeding 1 Tbps. The project starts with an in-orbit demonstration, where an experimental ground station is constructed and tested in phases with a satellite terminal. Initial integrations include a beacon and a transmission module, followed by the addition of a reception module for bi-directional connection tests. The ultimate goal is the creation of a ground station terminal capable of speeds over 100 Gbps, evolving into a second-generation system that can achieve speeds above 1 Tbps. This project involves not only the development of the ground station as a subsystem but also addresses operational and network aspects, with the ambition to secure a strong market position for Laser Satcom equipment.

The Aircraft/Ship-Satellite project focuses on developing Laser Satcom terminals for use on aircraft and ships, enabling extremely secure and fast connections (from gigabits to terabits per second) with satellites. This project progresses in three phases. It begins with the development of a technological demonstration model and testing it for connections with a geostationary satellite from a test aircraft via an optical window. This is followed by the development and testing of a prototype terminal suitable for a specific type of aircraft. Finally, the project moves towards the qualification and certification of the product for operational use. Alongside these phases, a plan is being developed for a maritime variant of the technology used in aircraft terminals.

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Innovation Centre

The innovation center aims to support the Dutch industry in acquiring a significant market share, estimated between 0.5 to 2 billion euros per year by 2040, in the market for Free Space Optical Communication. This goal will be achieved by coordinating the Laser Satcom program, promoting collaboration among partners, exploring future network structures for Laser Satcom, and developing shared production facilities and pilot lines for Laser Satcom subsystems. Additionally, the center focuses on disseminating research findings and training new talent.

This project focuses on developing crucial technologies between Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) 2-5 that are fundamental for future laser satellite communication systems. The technologies include opto-mechatronics for mechanical sensors and actuators, advanced electronics for rapid data processing, integrated photonics such as lasers and multiplexers, and quantum communication techniques like Single Photon Counting detectors. The goal is to apply the developed key technologies in the next generation of laser satellite communication systems, potentially offering unique selling points for future Laser Satcom terminals produced in the Netherlands.

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Technology development

Want to know more about our projects in the Laser Satcom domain?

Program Manager Erik Fritz will tell you everything about it.