Consider a constellation of over a hundred low Earth orbit satellites that aim to capture every point on Earth at least once a day. Clearly, there is a need to download from each satellite a large set of high-quality images on a daily basis. In this paper, we present a laser communication (lasercom) framework that stands as an alternative solution to existing radio-frequency means of satellite communication. By using lasercom, the suggested solution requires no frequency licensing and therefore allows such satellites to communicate with any optical ground station on Earth. Naturally, in order to allow laser communication from a low Earth orbit satellite to a ground station, accurate aiming and tracking are required. This paper presents a free-space optical communication system designed for a set of ground stations and nano-satellites. A related scheduling model is presented, for optimizing the communication between a ground station and a set of lasercom satellites. Finally, we report on SATLLA-2B, the first 300 g pico-satellite with basic free-space optics capabilities, that was launched on January 2022. We conjecture that the true potential of the presented network can be obtained by using a swarm of few hundreds of such lasercom pico-satellites, which can serve as a global communication infrastructure using existing telescope-based observatories as ground stations.
- free-space optical communication
- new space
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)