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Space Force Issues Four Contracts for Optical Communications

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif., June 21, 2024 — The U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC) has awarded four contracts for the development of laser communications terminal prototypes. The contract awards to Blue Origin, CACI International Inc., General Atomics, and Viasat serve to commence the first of three phases under the $100 million Enterprise Space Terminal (EST) program. 

The aim of the EST program is to enable on-orbit crosslink compatibility among future space systems via the use of a standardized enterprise waveform to be implemented in a long-range space optical communications terminal that is low size, weight, power, and cost. According to SSC, ESTs are a key building block of the broader Space Data Network, which will build a space mesh network for resiliency and information path diversity.

Further, the program leverages prior investment by the Department of Defense and commercial developers to operationalize an enterprise waveform designed to communicate in the Beyond Low Earth Orbit regimes.

“The EST prototypes will be a huge step forward for a future space mesh network across different orbital regimes ranging from low earth orbit to past the geosynchronous orbit regime,” said John Kirkemo, senior materiel leader of SSC’s Advanced Communications Acquisition Delta. “These terminals will implement a common waveform so all satellites carrying these terminals can talk to each other.”

The contracts were awarded through SSC's Space Enterprise Consortium.

Published: June 2024
Glossary
optical communications
The transmission and reception of information by optical devices and sensors.
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...
Businessoptical communicationsSpace ForceUnited StatesterminalLasersCommunicationsLow Earth orbitbeyond low earth orbitbLEODepartment of DefenseSpace Systems CommandBlue OriginGeneral AtomicsViaSatprototypeAmericas

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