TSAT Update: Lasercom Test Successful

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Laser SATCOM concept As DID noted in its focus article covering the $14-18 billion TSAT program and the future of the US SATCOM network, the U.S. has a big choice to make in 2007. It will either decide to build the TSAT system on its current schedule for launch in 2013-2016, or it will postpone TSAT, take stopgap measures and add Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites 4 & 5 to the three AEHF satellites slated for launch from 2009-2012. Lockheed Martin and Boeing have won major risk reduction contracts for the TSAT SS satellite system, in hopes of making that Plan B unnecessary. One of the key risk areas is laser communications, which uses precisely-aimed, modulated beams of light fired through space to transmit vast amounts of data. Northrop-Grumman and Team Lockheed recently announced the successful completion of a preliminary lasercom compatibility test at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. The testing demonstrated a single-access optical aperture, which is the front end of a laser communications terminal. 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 other challenge is maintaining tracking, using mechanized mirrors […]

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