DARPA tackles the big problem with small satellites
Posted on: May 27, 2016

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded a contract to speed development of technologies that could improve communications amongst its growing fleet of very small satellites.

Under the two-year, $5 million contract, LGS Innovations of Herndon, Virginia, will prototype a lightweight, low-power optical communication terminal system that will enable light-based communications between micro-satellites in low-earth orbit.

Small satellites — they weigh less than 100 pounds — represent a rapidly expanding component in the defense communications infrastructure, but they have their limitations. To be most effective they need to be networked together, and must also connect with satellites in geosynchronous orbits. But it is mechanically problematic to install a large parabolic antenna on such a relatively small spacecraft.

The solution under investigation would bypass the need for such equipment by leaving aside traditional radio frequency connectivity in favor of inter-satellite communications via laser. The laser modules should weigh less than two pounds each, making them a manageable payload even on a small satellite…

Read more of Adam Stone’s article at C4ISR and Networks.

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