LGS Innovations has been awarded a contract to develop a prototype pair of lightweight, low-power optical communication terminals that will allow for light-based communication between smallsats in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).
Under the terms of the contract, LGS will be responsible for developing a pair of laser communication terminals to be launched on two Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) small satellites. The terminals are to be extremely lightweight, weighing less than two pounds each, and will operate on less than three watts of power.
This is the second DARPA contract announced by LGS in recent weeks and is in support of the Inter-Satellite Communication Link project, which seeks to enable direct communication within constellations of small satellites (weighing less than 100 pounds each). Once completed and deployed, the terminals will allow for jam-resistant, high-data-rate, low-latency communication within a network of hundreds of small satellites.
Kevin Kelly, the CEO of LGS Innovations, indicated that small satellites represent the next generation of global communication technologies, with a constellation of smallsats that can communicate with one another able to improve the armed forces' ability to send and receive data quickly, safely, securely and at the lowest cost.
According to Dr. Linda Braun, the Vice President of LGS Innovations Photonics Applications & Development, the feasibility of high-bandwidth, laser communications between satellites will be demonstrated through this project. "This is increasingly viewed as an essential part of the DoD’s communication network, because of their lower cost and higher survivability,” she added.