SSC has been awarded a 1.1M€ contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) Scylight program to support the development of the optical communication project NODES (Network of Optical stations for Data transfer to Earth from Space). By developing an optical ground network for data repatriation services, SSC aims at capacitating the ground segment for the future optical communication market. As one of the first steps, SSC has placed an order to the French company Cailabs for a first ground station in Western Australia, scheduled to begin trials in early 2024.
“We are pleased to be part of the advancements within this fast-moving industry segment. While the market for optical communication is still young, the need for moving to this unlicensed part of the spectrum is greater than ever. In the coming years our ambition is to offer industry-leading optical ground network services to our current and future customers. This first station establishment together with Cailabs is a major step towards this realization,” says Hanna Sundberg, SSC Lead System Architect Optical Communications and NODES Project Manager.
The market for optical direct-to-Earth communication is expected to grow significantly over the coming years, supported by the increasingly advanced space laser communication technology. By moving to higher data transfer frequencies, the space industry is set to address the current data limitations by increasing the bandwidth and possible data rates. Among the benefits are increased security and immunity to electromagnetic interference as well as reduced size, weight and power consumption onboard the spacecraft itself.
“We are proud to have been selected by SSC for the first Optical Ground Station in the NODES project, and looking forward to a fruitful relationship with a great team. We share with SSC the same ambitious vision on the need for increased data rates, and the added benefits of laser-based communication in terms of radio congestion and security,” says Jean-François Morizur, CEO of Cailabs.
Additional optical ground stations will be added to the global network to provide a full optical data service when the concept is proven.