Sony launches laser-based Space Communications Corporation

Sony launches laser-based Space Communications Corporation

The problem the company is addressing is that while the amount of data used in orbit is increasing every year (with ever more satellites in space) the amount of available radio waves is limited

“Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites need to communicate with the ground, so a large number of communications facilities are required for real-time communications, which is problematic because these satellites must pass directly over a ground station to communicate with it,” said Kyohei Iwamoto, who is President of SSC.

Specifically, the company plans to develop small optical communications devices to connect micro satellites in LEO (Low Earth Orbit) via the use of laser beams.

By using optical communications, it aims to achieve high-speed comms with small devices that are physically difficult to achieve with conventional radio communications, with requirements for a large antenna and high power output.

By constructing an optical communications network not only between satellites and the ground, but also between satellites in orbit, SSC aims to enable real-time communications from anywhere on the ground to any satellite in space.

Optical communications are also easier to implement than traditional radio frequency communications as they do not require the certain types of licenses that radio communication needs.

“Additionally, the need for frequency licenses for radio waves and the requirement for lower power consumption of communication equipment needed by smaller satellites, like micro satellites, are also issues to be addressed,” Kyohei Iwamoto added.

Basically, SSC’s ambition is to provide easy-to-use inter-satellite communications capabilities, and also “realise an Internet communications network covering the earth, space, and applications such as real-time services”.

The new corporate entity will be based in San Mateo, California.

SOLISS Space Communications

Sony had previously sought SOLISS in space back in September 2019. That is to say “Small Optical Link for International Space Station” (SOLISS). It was a long-distance laser communication system aiming to establish a mass-data communication system for future inter-satellite space communications and communications with ground stations.

The system was was launched aboard H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 8, from the JAXA Tanegashima Space Center in Japan, and it was installed in the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” of the International Space Station (ISS).

According to Sony, it established a bidirectional laser communications link with a space optical communication ground station of the Japanese National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), and successfully transmitted high-definition image data via Ethernet protocols.

In 2021, the experimental device successfully established optical downlinks from space to a commercial optical ground station of Kongsberg Satellite Services in Greece.

The technology was jointly developed by Sony Computer Science Laboratories (Sony CSL) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and featured Sony’s optical disk technology such as was used in household CD players.

See also: UKSA backs Northumbria University for FSO CubeSats

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