Sony Business to Develop Laser-Based Space Communications Systems

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Sony Corp. of America (SCA) has formed Sony Space Communications Corp. (SSC) as an independent company to conduct space optical communications. SSC plans to offer its communications equipment to companies working on satellite development. SCA said it aims for the newly formed company to increase the amount of communications in space and realize an internet communications network covering Earth, space, and applications such as real-time services.

“Currently there are approximately 12,000 satellites in space, and the number is expected to increase in the future. The amount of data used in orbit is also increasing year by year, but the amount of available radio waves is limited,” said Kyohei Iwamoto, president of SSC.

Iwamoto added that since low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites must be able to communicate with a ground base, a high number of communications facilities are currently needed to enable real-time communications. This is problematic because these satellites must pass directly over a ground station to makes these communications.

“Additionally, the need for frequency licenses for radio waves and the requirement for lower power consumption of communication equipment needed by smaller satellites, like microsatellites, are also issues to be addressed,” Iwamoto said.

SSC will develop small optical communications devices to provide related services to connect microsatellites in LEO via a laser beam. The combination of optical communications and small devices will support solutions that are physically difficult to realize with conventional radio communications because conventional communications require large antennas and high power output.

In addition, by constructing an optical communications network not only between satellites and the ground, but also between satellites in orbit, SSC aims to enable real-time communications from anywhere on the ground to any satellite in space.

Sony said it has been conducting R&D in optical communications systems at Sony Computer Science Laboratories Inc. to enable high-speed data communications over long distances in a form that can be mounted on microsatellites. In 2020, SOLISS (Small Optical Link for International Space Station) was installed in the Japanese experiment module “Kibo” on the International Space Station (ISS) in collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). SOLISS’ installation established a bidirectional laser communications link with a space optical communication ground station of the Japanese National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, and successfully transmitted high-definition image data via Ethernet protocols. In 2021, this experimental device successfully established optical downlinks from space to a commercial optical ground station of Kongsberg Satellite Services in Greece.

In 2022, in collaboration with JAXA, an experiment on complete data file transfer in a simulated error-prone communications environment, which will be the technological basis for internet services through stratospheric and low-Earth-orbit optical communications, was successfully conducted, Sony said.

Neither the company nor SCA have indicated when commercial offerings will be available. SSC is operating now out of its base in San Mateo, Calif.

Companies such as CACI and Mynaric are currently active in the space communications field. In May, CACI reported it had demonstrated space-to-space optical communications links in low Earth orbit in partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Space Development Agency. The demonstration was part of the Mandrake II program and used CACI’s CrossBeam free-space optical terminals.

Also in May, Mynaric Airbus U.S. Space & Defense Inc. signed a contract to host Mynaric’s CONDOR Mk2 terminal for space-based laser communication on the ISS’ functional testbed, Bartolomeo. Mynaric plans to operate its industrialized optical communications terminal on the ISS, with the goal of demonstrating the product’s capabilities in LEO and providing customers with a range of experimental mission scenarios. Mynaric’s CONDOR optical communications terminal is expected to be part of the ISS fall 2022 resupply mission.

Published: June 2022
low earth orbit
Low Earth orbit (LEO) refers to a region in space that is relatively close to Earth's surface, typically characterized by altitudes ranging from approximately 180 to 2,000 kilometers (112 to 1,242 miles). Satellites and spacecraft in low Earth orbit follow paths that are close to the planet, completing an orbit around Earth in a relatively short period. Key characteristics of low Earth orbit include: Altitude range: LEO extends from altitudes just above the Earth's atmosphere (around...
optical communicationCommunicationsLasersLow Earth orbitBusinessSonyfree space optical communicationsCACI InternationalMynaricsatellite communicationExtreme EnvironmentOpticsAsia PacificIndustry News

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