The Pentagon wants to develop a network of space lasers to improve secure communications
DARPA, the Pentagon’s high-risk, high-reward R&D arm, has its mind on laser links. The agency is specifically working to develop an interconnected network of links for speedy and secure communications between military, civilian, and commercial space assets.
The DARPA program, known as the Space-Based Adaptive Communications Node (Space-BACN), recently announced 11 Phase 1 awardees.
The Phase 1 Space-BACN awards fall into three technical areas:
On Monday, SpaceLink, an awardee from the third category, shared a bit of extra color on its role in the program. The McLean, Virginia-based company is working on a constellation of four MEO optical (aka laser) data relay satellites that will be able to facilitate faster communication with low Earth orbit satellites.
“We’ve been living in a dial-up world,” says SpaceLink CEO Dave Bettinger. “We’re at the base of a huge adoption curve.”
SpaceLink’s planned constellation is designed so that it can connect with any satellite in low Earth orbit and downlink directly to a ground station. Laser comms are also more secure, since they use a much narrower beam than radio communications and are more difficult to intercept.
SpaceLink’s system is compatible with the optical comms systems being built by both DARPA and the SDA, aligning the technology with government and military needs.
Optical communications are having a moment, as multiple government programs as well as commercial space companies look to increase communication speed and security from orbit.
This story originally appeared on Payload and is republished here with permission.