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USAF Wants Laser Pods for Aircraft-Satellite Communications

The US Air Force has contracted satellite subsystems manufacturer Space Micro to develop a laser communications pod enabling unhindered and secure communications between aircraft and orbital satellites.

The challenge before the San Diego-based company is to overcome “atmospheric turbulence” that “scrambles transmitted information” during aircraft-satellite communication. 

Unhindered Communication

To cancel out the atmospheric turbulence, the company is using Johns Hopkins University’s patented “dual-adaptive mirror technology” which uses deformable mirrors to transmit an unhindered laser signal. The university reportedly developed the technology for NASA.  

The company is also using Rhea Space Activity’s deep-space autonomous navigation capability, the Jervis Autonomy Module for “autonomous and accurate” aircraft-satellite linkup. 

Space News quoted Space Micro CEO David Strobel as saying that aircraft-satellite optical communication requires “some of the hardest pointing and navigating that you could possibly do, especially if we’re told that they need to maintain this uplink while they’re maneuvering.”

Secure Communication

Developers plan to develop a laser pod that sits underneath a fighter aircraft and “transmit up to 10 gigabits of data per second.” 

Astrophysicist and founder of Rhea Space Activity Shawn Usman said the technology will allow “US stealth aircraft to maintain secure high-bandwidth communications during combat operations.”  

Space News quoted aerospace engineer at Rhea Space Activity Beau Rideout as saying, “The idea is to use satellite-based communications to provide high-speed bandwidth so aircraft can receive and send data to other military users around the world.”

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