What is the use of laser communication in satellites and why does Starlink want to use it?

One of the biggest advances in the next generation of telecommunication systems is lasers that will be sent not to destroy, but to transmit information between satellites. Starlink SpaceX recently started laser communication service for some regions of the planet and in this article we want to get to know a little more about this technology.

Replacing radio frequency communications with laser is somewhat similar to the transition from copper cables in home internet networks to fiber optic cables. This technology can Communication speed increased and Delay bring down

Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, previously tweeted about this technology in July 2021: “In-orbit laser communications can overcome the delay caused by long distances due to the higher speed of light in a vacuum and the shorter distance compared to undersea fibers. up to 50 percent reduce.”

Laser connection of satellite internet

Starlink satellites are linked by lasers

The first series of Starlink laser satellites was launched into polar orbit in January 2021. Research firm Moffett Nathanson claimed in a report in April 2021 that laser equipment is necessary to achieve Starlink’s goal of global satellite Internet coverage over oceans and poles.

The company added in its report: “The importance of connecting satellites to each other cannot be underestimated. These internal links not only allow the wasted capacity of satellites in areas where ground station they don’t have, it can be used more optimally, but they provide the possibility of serving areas where it is impossible to establish ground stations.”

Until now, the Starlink service enabled users to connect via satellite through ground stations. These stations take data to Internet servers and back to the satellite to complete the connection. But it is not possible to build these ground stations in all parts of the earth, including in remote and polar places. As a result, satellites with internal laser link can communicate with other satellites and complete this cycle from another path.

Laser communications can also be accessed with the help of technological advances that allow more precise control of the beams. Higher bandwidth make possible Barry Matsumori, CEO of optical communications company BridgeComm, says: “We typically have access to 100 Gbps. But we are moving towards using terabit rates.”

Matsumori says that if you really need high speeds, say above 10 gigabit per second, radio frequencies will not be the answer for you. Because all the usable parts of the radio frequency spectrum are already allocated to different parts.

Laser satellites are more expensive to build

Starlink satellite

Additionally, lasers can be precisely directed to receivers, but radio waves are broadcast universally, exposing data to a higher risk of eavesdropping. “Gain Shotol”, the chief operating officer of SpaceX, said earlier in August 2021 that the launch of laser technology has slowed down the launch speed of the company’s satellites. In addition, he said at the Space Symposium conference in Colorado that the production of laser terminals Higher cost has it.

Mynaric is one of the companies that works in the field of laser communications between satellites and is involved with DARPA in the US government in a project that aims to build nodes to translate information in the network of orbiting satellites. This project is being implemented in collaboration with other companies, including Intel. However, Matsumori and Mynaric’s CEO say you shouldn’t expect too much from laser communications at ground level. The main difference of this technology is related to the level of the earth’s atmosphere.

Although the new SpaceX satellites bring many technical improvements, they do not solve one of the problems of the previous generation of these satellites. Astronomers have long complained about the high brightness of these communications equipment and claim that these satellites can interfere with their observations. Considering the increasing number of Starlink satellites, it seems that a more serious action should be taken to solve this problem.

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