Satellite laser technology enables faster communication

Self-driving cars, social media with more videos and the Internet of Things create a growing demand for more data. The existing connections cannot meet that demand. Laser satellite communication could be the solution.


At the moment, more than 40 researchers at TNO are working on the development of optical communication technology that uses satellites to send information to Earth. This happens via invisible light signals and enables much faster data transfers than using the radio frequencies currently employed for communication everywhere.


Laser satellite communication uses much less power and at the same time, the efficiency is higher. Moreover, it can be at least 10 times faster than normal communication. ‘It’s an exploding new market’, says Ivan Ferrario, Program Manager of Optical Communications at TNO. ‘You can use laser satellite communication to process a terabit of information per second. Or, more tangible: streaming 200,000 Netflix HD quality movies in parallel. That’s orders of magnitudes better than radio frequency communication. Also, this form of communication is intrinsically more secure, because you cannot jam or intercept the signal’


TNO is designing and building the space, air and ground optical terminals with which the satellites communicate with terrestrial stations and for inter-satellite communications. On that development, it collaborates with Dutch industry. There are many companies in the Netherlands that are already working on building components and subsystems relevant for laser satellite communication. TNO helps these companies to use their work processes and machines so that laser satellite communication components can be built easily and cheaply. Both parties benefit from this.


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