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Published November 2017 | Submitted
Book Section - Chapter Open

Optical communication on CubeSats — Enabling the next era in space science


CubeSats are excellent platforms to rapidly perform simple space experiments. Several hundreds of CubeSats have already been successfully launched in the past few years and the number of announced launches grows every year. These platforms provide an easy access to space for universities and organizations which otherwise could not afford it. However, these spacecraft still rely on RF communications, where the spectrum is already crowded and cannot support the growing demand for data transmission to the ground. Lasercom holds the promise to be the solution to this problem, with a potential improvement of several orders of magnitude in the transmission capacity, while keeping a low size, weight and power. Between 2016 and 2017, The Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS), a joint institute of the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, brought together a group of space scientists and lasercom engineers to address the current challenges that this technology faces, in order to enable it to compete with RF and eventually replace it when high-data rate is needed. After two one-week workshops, the working group started developing a report addressing three study cases: low Earth orbit, crosslinks and deep space. This paper presents the main points and conclusions of these KISS workshops.

Additional Information

© 2017 IEEE. This work was supported in part by the W. M. Keck Institute for Space Studies [33]. The authors also want to thank all the participants of the two workshops: Krisjani Angkasa (JPL), Alessandra Babuscia (JPL), Derek Barnes (MIT), Kerri Cahoy (MIT), Amir Caspi (SwRI), Emily Clements (MIT), Sam Dolinar (JPL), Peter Goorjian (NASA), Varoujan Gorjian (JPL), Brian Gunter (Georgia Institute of Technology), Frank Heine (Tesat Spacecom), Travis Imken (JPL), Farzana Khatri (MIT), Maxim Khatsenko (MIT), Ryan Kingsbury (Planet Labs), Jonathan Klamkin (UC Santa Barbara), David Klumpar (Montana State University), Michael Krainak (NASA), Michael Küeppers (ESA), Joe Kusters (JPL), Myron Lee (MIT), Rachel Morgan (MIT), Dhack Muthulingam (JPL), Michael Peng (JPL), Sean Pike (Caltech), Joseph Riedel (JPL), Kathleen Riesing (MIT), Bryan Robinson (MIT), Darren Rowen (The Aerospace Corp.), Joel Shields (JPL), Harlan Spence (University of New Hampshire), Mark Storm (Fibertek Inc.), Jan Stupl (SGT/NASA), Jose Velazco (JPL) and Hua Xie (JPL).

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