United States of America
- laser communications
- Optical Systems Validation Suite
- Transformational Satellite Communications System
With the successful completion of a preliminary compatibility test, the Lockheed
Martin/ Northrop Grumman Corporation Transformational Satellite Communications
System (TSAT) space segment team has built and tested high-data-rate laser
communications hardware that meets a newly defined U.S. government lasercom
interoperability standard. Lasercom is a key technology to be used in the U.S.
Air Force's TSAT program that will deliver vastly improved communications
abilities to a wide variety of users.
The first test, OSVS-1, of the lasercom terminal hardware, built by the Northrop
Grumman Space Technology sector, was conducted from early November to
mid-December 2005 against the Optical Systems Validation Suite (OSVS) testbed at
Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory. The second phase of
testing, OSVS-2, is scheduled to be completed by February 2007.
The test measured the quality of communication between the Northrop Grumman
lasercom terminal and the government terminal (OSVS) testbed, including the
ability to point, acquire and track another lasercom terminal and to maintain
that tracking in the presence of spacecraft jitter (shaking). Test results
proved the hardware can perform at data rates of 10 and 40 gigabits per second
and is at a level of maturity consistent with objectives for OSVS-1. Instead of
radio frequencies, laser terminals communicate by sending modulated beams of
light and are smaller and more cost effective for high-data-rate systems needed
for the increasing bandwidth demands of U.S. warfighters.
The test demonstrated a single-access optical aperture, which is the front end
of a communications terminal that uses a laser to transmit and receive
information. The beam width of a lasercom terminal is extremely small, requiring
precision pointing, scanning and tracking performance to lock on to and
communicate with another terminal. The terminal is designed to maintain tracking
when mounted on a spacecraft. The optical aperture uses mechanized mirrors to
point toward and track the other terminal. Northrop Grumman's partner, SSG
Precision Optronics, Wilmington, Mass., manufactured the telescope used in the
The U.S. Air Force identified laser communications as a key risk technology
needed for TSAT, which will provide high-bandwidth, Internet protocol-based
satellite communications to the future warfighter.
The Lockheed Martin / Northrop Grumman TSAT space segment team, which includes
ViaSat, Rockwell Collins, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, L-3
Communications, Stratogis and Caspian Networks, is currently working under a
$514 million contract for the Risk Reduction and System Definition phase. This
effort will culminate with a multi-billion dollar development contract to be
awarded to a single contractor in 2008.
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