Optical Satellite Communications - Entering a New Age


Jörg-Peter Elbers, ADVA, Germany; Randy Giles, Nubis Communications, USA; Scott Hamilton, MIT, USA


Satellite communications have long been used to provide connectivity to airborne, maritime and space users. Also, in areas where terrestrial network access is neither possible nor desired, satellite communications is the solution of choice. Gigabit per second optical inter-satellite links have been used commercially for many years. Very High Throughput Satellite (VHTS) constellations in GEO, MEO and LEO orbits now aim at terabit per second capacities with the vision to construct a “fiber network” in space. Such an approach does not only require a new generation of inter-satellite links and switching functions on space nodes, but also a terrestrial network of ground stations to feed the satellite constellations with the necessary capacity and reliability. Satellite orbits and atmospheric obscuration call for new networking paradigms, as a frequent switch-over between ground stations and satellites becomes a normal mode of operation. There will also be a strong interdependency between these non-terrestrial networks and terrestrial networks to optimize end-to-end link performance and network efficiency.  From a hardware perspective, there is pressure to minimize the SWAP-C (Size, Weight, Power and Cost) of space-based components and to maximize the re-use of terrestrial transceiver, amplification and switch technology in satellite payloads if functional and reliability targets can be met.

This symposium aims at bringing the optical communication and satellite communities together. With distinguished speakers from space agencies, industry, and academia, we will hear how satellite communications may look like in the future and the role played by optical communications technologies.