GA-ASI and TESAT Partner to Develop RPA-to-spacecraft Lasercom Link
- System Expected to Improve Data Bandwidth Significantly
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), tactical reconnaissance radars, and electro-optic surveillance systems, and Tesat-Spacecom, a world leader of space-based laser communication, today announced that they have signed a teaming agreement to combine their expertise in the field of RPA laser communication (lasercom) to demonstrate a high-rate RPA-to-spacecraft lasercom link.
“New sensors and increased RPA usage will create an increased bandwidth demand for RPA-to-ground communication in the near future, exceeding currently installed RF [Radio Frequency] communication capabilities,” said Linden Blue, president, Reconnaissance Systems Group, GA-ASI. “With the potential to increase data rates by 1,000 times, a lasercom link offers a next-generation alternative to radio Satcom [Satellite communications], and Tesat’s involvement with the U.S.-German program that has validated space-to-space and space-to-ground laser data links at very high data rates makes them the ideal partner for this new venture.”
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Today’s RPA rely on RF links to transmit sensor data from an RPA. A high-bandwidth optical link between an above-the-weather RPA and a GEO satellite offers a secure, jamming-resistant, alternative to Ku- and Ka-Band data links.
“LaserCom enables the capability to integrate air- and space-based wideband Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance [ISR] systems into national command and control systems in a way that was previously not possible,” said Peter Schlote, CEO of Tesat-Spacecom GMBH & Co. KG.
Under the agreement, GA-ASI will solicit government support to demonstrate an optical laser subsystem. Tesat’s role will be to support the Laser Communication Terminal (LCT) systems engineering and deliver a data link controller to handle the data transfer between the RPA and a communication satellite.
Following development, the team plans to demonstrate the capabilities of the lasercom system via a 2.6 GB/sec uplink to an available Low Earth Orbit (LEO) spacecraft. The follow-on prototype will use the Alphasat satellite’s Alphabus LCT in a geo-stationary orbit, verifying a high-bandwidth, RPA-to-ground data capability.
Source : General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.