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  • Space Systems/Loral, NASA Partner on Laser Communications Project
Apr 2012
PALO ALTO, Calif., April 12, 2012 — Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) has announced that it will partner with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to host a laser communications relay demonstration (LCRD) on a commercial satellite to be launched in 2016.

NASA’s Space Technology Program selected Goddard’s mission proposal to use the SS/L satellite platform to help enable the next era of space communications.

Optical communications uses an uncongested portion of spectrum compared with radio frequency (RF) communications currently used to transmit data from space. With the potential to provide order of magnitude higher data rates than RF, laser communications (lasercom) enables access to the vast amounts of data being collected from distant planets, including video and images. For commercial satellites, lasercom could provide even faster rates than RF, with much less power and mass — the typical constraints of satellite design.

(Image: Space Systems/Loral)

SS/L is working with NASA Goddard’s LCRD team to determine the technical requirements for the instruments to be integrated with the SS/L 1300 satellite platform. SS/L will work with its commercial customers to identify an appropriate host satellite for the demonstration.

“Once proven, the technology that we are demonstrating will revolutionize future communication systems,” said Michael Weiss, project manager at Goddard. “The use of optical communication technologies in a network environment will meet the growing needs of high data rate user demand, while enabling lower mass and power for space and ground communication systems.”

SS/L previously built Intelsat-14, which was successfully launched in 2009 and hosted the first commercial Internet Router in Space (IRIS). It also built Optus-C1 for Singtel Optus, which launched in 2003, to provide commercial communications services in Australia and to host a UHF payload for the Australian Defense Force. SS/L also integrated a navigation payload onto SES-5 for the European Union. It will launch later this year.

“By selecting this project, NASA’s Space Technology Program is not only investigating next-generation technologies, but it is taking the lead in leveraging the benefit of commercial satellites for faster and less costly access to space,” said Al Tadros, vice president of government and civil missions at SS/L.

SS/L, a subsidiary of Loral Space & Communications, provides commercial satellites.

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The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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