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advanced Concept for laser uplink/ downlink CommuniCation with sPace Objects

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - C3PO (advanced Concept for laser uplink/ downlink CommuniCation with sPace Objects)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2017-09-30

As observation and imaging capacities are continuously increasing for small satellite platforms, the downlink communication data rate becomes a major bottleneck. Nowadays, optical communication system concepts are developed worldwide as an alternative to radiofrequency technologies.
According to latest market studies, the satellites market shows a trend towards smaller (micro and nano-satellites), lowered mass and increased performance platforms. Future satellite utilization require:
• more payload weight to use large optical sensors with high resolution
• higher downlink data rates in order to effectively download the resulting extremely large data sets

C3PO makes more weight and power available for satellite payloads and increases the downlink data rate of actual systems of micro and nano-satellites. This increased performance of miniaturized payloads enables multiple applications by providing a high data rate for very light on-board mass. The technology could offer 1 Gbit/s data rate for less than a kilogram of communications payload onboard the satellite.

The project aims to develop a retro-reflective laser communications system for to small/nano-satellitesn through:
• Designing the system architecture
• Maturing the key enabling technologies (Satellite target acquisition, Safety and security, Modulated retro-reflector)
• Demonstrating the system concept through two experiments (acquisition of a satellite target with a laser station and a Gbit/s communication experiment over a 1km range to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept)

The system relies on highly innovative technologies:
• A solid-state spatial light modulator based fine tracking beam steering device
• A fine tracking algorithm that enables to maximise the communication window
• A Multiple-Quantum Well Electro-Absorption Modulator array as an on-board modulation device

Moreover, the project carries out a concrete business model analysis, to give a clear indication of the ways in which these technologies can significantly improve performance and/or reduce costs (Markets of satellite design and manufacturing, satellite imagery, secured communications). This analysis is driving the dissemination activities to target the future users of the developed system.
The main results achieved by the project from the start to the end of the period covered are:
- Delivery of all the reports
- Design, coding, integration and test of the tracking algorithm
- Definition of the system concept
- Detailed definition of the two experiments
- Development, delivery and test of the 1st EAM prototype
- Design of the optical housing and integration of the EAM
- Roll-out of the Satellite Laser Ranging experiment and conclusions on the budget link established
- Exploration of possible exploitation scenarii and business models for the C3PO concept as well as the EAM technology
- Final synthesis
Low earth orbit satellite tracking
The Satellite Laser Ranging experiment using non-precise satellite position data to initialize an automatic target acquisition for laser communication has demonstrated the feasibility of such system beyond the actual state of the art.
Laser modulation device
Achieving a 500 Mbit/s communication link at a range of 560m using a Modulated Retro-Reflector based on an MQW EAM during the communication experiment demonstrates the progress beyond the actual state of the art carried by C3PO. it's today a word record for this concept. the project aimed us to maintain and reinforce our technolgical advance on the MRR versus the state of the art
Concept illustration
Project title