Free-Space Laser Communications Speed Record Set

18th Oct 2022
Free-Space Laser Communications Speed Record Set

On 3 October 2022, Thales Alenia Space revealed that their VERTIGO project achieved a record transmission speed for free-space laser communications. 

The field trial in Switzerland saw the joint venture group (67% Thales and 33% Leonardo) take a huge leap forward toward the next generation of Geostationary communications satellites that double the existing available feeder links capacity through the use of optical feeder links. 

A huge role in bridging the digital divide

These solutions will have a chief role to play in bridging the digital divide, ensuring everyone can benefit from rapid connectivity by 2025. 

The aim is also to boost the capacity of satellites, meaning fewer satellites would be needed to satisfy user demand, therefore, reducing environmental impact.

Achieving record speeds during a challenging trial

Thales Alenia Space, ONERA, and ETHZ demonstrated a record transmission speed in free space during the testing phase of up to 1 Tbit/s over a distance of 53 km on a single wavelength. 

This occurred during conditions described as “extremely challenging,” with the data transmission occurring via a turbulent propagation channel between the Zimmerwald Observatory in Switzerland’s capital city of Bern and Jungfraujoch Research Station in the Swiss Alps.

The trial presented the opportunity to test the use of a number of important technologies for optical links in collaboration with one another. This included a number of modulation formats, multi-aperture techniques, and adaptive optics. 

Moving on to the next phase in laser communications

VERTIGO will now head to the next phase, which is the final step of the project. This involves high-power communication link tests, which will occur at Thales Research and Technology in a laboratory setting. 

Beyond this project, the joint venture group will look at a full-scale laser link between a ground station and a geostationary satellite, taking place at an altitude of 36.000 km.

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