France and Japan Test Satellite-to-Ground Laser Communications – Satellite Today

NICT Kashima Japan

NICT Kashima Space Technology Center. Photo: NICT.

[Via Satellite 12-21-2015] The French space agency CNES and Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) announced that in June the organizations completed a link test using a NICT Small Optical Terminal (SOTA) flying on a Japanese satellite in Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO) and an experimental Optical Ground Station (OGS) at the Observatoire de la Cote d’Azur (OCA) in Caussols, France. Since this first successful trial, other links have been established in July and October with different instrument configurations.

France and Japan conducted the experiment to collect data on laser beam propagation through the atmosphere.

Optical links, compared to radio-frequency links, can provide greater bandwidth and faster data rates, but are significantly more sensitive to atmospheric conditions. Such satellite-to-ground optical links could potentially be used in future to transmit data acquired by Earth-observation satellites and for satellite telecommunications.

This experiment is part of the framework cooperation agreement signed between NICT and CNES on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and in connection with space technologies and applications. The OCA team, with support from Airbus Defence and Space, Thales Alenia Space and the French defense research agency ONERA, conducted the OGS studies, development and the measurement campaign. More joint NICT-CNES experiments are planned for the months ahead to test different link parameters and exchange data received from CNES and NICT’s ground stations to compare results.

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