Lasers in Starlink satellites: One of the next big upgrades in telecom will involve satellites firing lasers at each other.
to beam data, not blow stuff up.
The upside of replacing traditional radio-frequency communication with lasers, that encode data as pulses of light. can be much like that of deploying fiber-optic cable for terrestrial broadband: much faster speeds and much lower latency.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted in July about the upgrade now beginning for that firm’s Starlink satellite constellation.
The first batch of laser-equipped Starlink satellites went up to polar orbits in January, Musk confirmed January 24. Its most recent launch in early September featured version 1.5 spacecraft with the latest laser technology.
In a report posted April 5, the market-research firm MoffettNathanson called lasers essential to Starlink’s ambition of providing worldwide connectivity from its more than 1,500 satellites, even over oceans and the poles.
“The importance of linking satellites together cannot be overstated,” the note read.
“Not only do interlinks enable sharing of capacity more efficiently by making use of otherwise wasted satellite capacity over regions without ground stations. they also enable the provision of service to areas where it is impossible to put a ground station.”
SpaceX may be getting the most attention for its use of optical communication. but multiple companies are developing laser systems to deploy on satellites and even in applications closer to Earth.
“Creating that ubiquitous mesh network connectivity is becoming more and more important right now.” said Tina Ghataore, chief commercial officer at Mynaric.
That firm, with offices in Gilching, Germany, and Hawthorne, California, builds laser-optical terminals for use in satellites as well as in the air.
“The commercial sector is seeing the value of incorporating this tech.”
Lasers can also provide immense bandwidth, thanks to advances in technology that allow more precise control of a beam.
“We routinely do 100 gigabits per second,” said Barry Matsumori, CEO of the Denver optical-communications firm BridgeComm. “We’re heading toward being able to do a terabit.”