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In order to assess the utilisation of optical technologies on-board next generation communication satellites (e.g. VHTS), the objectives of this activity are:
Targeted Improvements: System and sub-system performance requirements for the next generation VHTS and a development roadmap for the critical enabling technologies.
Although the strong position of European and Canadian industry in the field of optical technology has been demonstrated, the technology gap is stillvery large for widespread commercial exploitation of such technology in satellite communication applications. With EDRS, optical inter-satellite links have been demonstrated in orbit, but today only on dedicated missions which are not aiming tounleash the full capabilities of optical communication.
One prominent example underlines the need for a system-level approach: Optical feeder links (uplinks) for satellite communication services, which will offer clear advantages over radio frequency alternatives, including the ability to support very high data rates. The development of space and ground terminals in this area will require new and innovative technologies and concepts to meet expectations and requirements. Furthermore, the handling of such high rate data streams on board thesatellite itself remains a challenge, including the technology required to transition between the optical and electrical domains, which is lacking maturity and inhibiting the competitiveness of optical payload solutions with respect to established RF alternatives.
The market for the space and ground optical terminals and payload equipment is dependent upon the maturity and availability of other optical technologies, like photonic components that are sufficiently robust for the intended operating environment. At the same time, these key components need to fulfil challenging requirements coming from the commercial satellite manufacturing market, which include easy embarkation, competitive pricing and reliable, multi-source supply chains. Similar to the example above, many areas will require a system-level approach, that takes the end-to-end chain into account, will eventually unleash the full capabilities of such solutions, and in the longer term will create market opportunities for optical feeder link terminals and related photonic communication equipment.
This activity aims at identifying and quantifying the critical technology gaps that are inhibiting widespread commercial acceptance of optical technology in satellite communication systems, thereby strengthening the technology development roadmap for future high throughput optical satellite systems.