General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced the company has partnered with the U.S. Space Development Agency (SDA) to demonstrate and conduct a series of experiments for an Optical Intersatellite Link (OISL) using GA-EMS’s internally developed 1550nm (nanometer) wavelength laser communication terminals (LCTs).
This will be one of the first Department of Defense contracted efforts to develop and deploy a state-of-the-art 1550nm LCT to test capabilities to increase the speed, distance, and variability of communications in space.
The OISL demonstration will consist of two GA-EMS internally designed and built 12U CubeSat spacecraft, each of which will host an Infrared payload (IRPL) and LCT payload, with an anticipated launch date in March 2021. Satellite development, integration and testing is being conducted at GA-EMS facilities in San Diego, California, and Huntsville, Alabana. GA-EMS will also provide mission control capabilities from its mission control centers in Centennial, Colorado, and Huntsville.
Scott Forney, President of GA-EMS, said this is an exciting opportunity for GA-EMS to leverage work currently underway to advance OISL technologies. For several years, the company has been developing a series of optical laser communication terminals to improve and increase satellite crosslink data transfer rates and downlink data rates. These experiments will demonstrate robust communication capabilities through multiple mediums, from Earth, to and between satellites in multiple orbits and on into deep space. GA-EMS’ LCT technology will modernize and enhance space communications permitting faster communication transmission across longer distances and with greater fidelity.
Nick Bucci, VP of Missile Defense and Space Systems at GA-EMS, added that the company’s small satellite designs offer unique solutions to many of the challenges that arise when developing demonstration assets, such as LCTs including addressing specific size, weight, and power requirements. With GA-EMS’ proven spacecraft and capabilities, coupled with the company’s significant investment in LCT research and development, the firm anticipates this demonstration to show data rates up to 5 GB a second at ranges up to 2500 km, and this LCT can support out to greater than 4500 km. This increased speed in communications is necessary to advance a variety of space applications in intelligence, surveillance, telecommunications, reconnaissance, and more.