$53.8M for Steerable Laser Communications Systems R&D
The Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland, Air Force Base, NM recently issued a pair of contract modifications to Raytheon and Northrop-Grumman, in order to develop all-electronic steering systems for laser access communication beams.
Steering extends the laser’s field of view, and hence its coverage and ability to serve as a terminal for multiple systems. The concept plays a major role in the Multi-Access Laser Space Terminal concept and programs like the TSAT network, allowing significant weight savings over a system that required point-to-point nodes. This is particularly important for satellite-based equipment, given the enormous cost per pound of putting objects into orbit.
Raytheon Network Centric Systems in Marlborough, MA is being awarded a $37 million cost-plus fixed-fee contract modification (FA9453-05-C-0238). Solicitation began March 2004, negotiations were completed June 2005, and work will be complete by July 2007.
Northrop Grumman Space and Mission Systems Corp. in Redondo Beach, CA is being awarded a $16.8 million cost-plus fixed-fee contract modification (FA9453-05-C-0237). Solicitation began March 2004, negotiations were completed June 2005, and work will be complete by April 2007.
As Raytheon notes regarding its Optical Phased Array (OPA) technology:
“…(OPA) for multi-access lasercom nodes (MLNs) is a true enabler of high data-rate communications via satellites as envisioned in the Transformational Communications Architecture. In addition to the advantages of affordability, low weight, no moving parts, and completely independent steering of multiple beams, OPAs provide an unprecedented degree of flexible link dynamics. The ability of OPAs to combine, fan out and independently steer arrays of beams offers a unique multi-access, bandwidth-on-demand capability.
Using a phased-array-of-OPAs configuration, individual apertures can be programmed for low-bandwidth or short-range links. For high-bandwidth and long-range links, multiple apertures can be combined coherently to increase the effective area and total power, thereby extending range and available bandwidth to remote users. The beam agility of OPAs can enable an aperture to time multiplex many far-end terminals that only require low-duty factor connections by hopping quickly and accurately from target to target. This is particularly valuable for asymmetric connections where the data rate in one direction is only a small fraction of the rate in the opposite direction. Only an OPA solution can fully exploit time division multiplexing (TDM), wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) and other leading-edge technologies developed for commercial optical fiber networks.”
- DID (July 15/05) – AMU A Bright Spot on the Satellite Horizon
- Air Force Research Laboratory Technical Horizons (June/05) – A Multi-Access Laser Space Terminal System for Transformational Communications
- Raytheon Technology Today (Issue 2/05) – Optical Multi-Access Satellite Communications