Mynaric Tapped to Design DARPA’s Optical Terminal

Article By : George Leopold

The new framework would serve as the basis for a prototype system used to link satellites.

Mynaric, a German laser communications specialist, will help design an optical communications terminal that could be reconfigured to link different satellite constellations.

The adaptable architecture design for a next-generation optical communications terminal is part of an early development effort overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The Space-Based Adaptive Communications Node, or Space-BACN, seeks to develop an inexpensive, reconfigurable communications terminal that complies with a range of optical satellite link standards. Such a system would be used to exchange data among constellations that currently cannot talk to one another.

Mynaric said the initial 15-week “phase 0” contract award covers development of the architectural design, to be followed by a 14-month phase 1 contract, not yet awarded, with the objective of developing a “benchtop” version of the optical communications terminal. A future prototype would be built during a 20-month phase.

Other suppliers are expected to be selected for later development phases.

Mynaric specializes in satellite-to-satellite and space-to-ground laser communications. Its optical communications terminals are touted as providing configurable data-rate speeds between 100 Mbps and 100 Gbps. The terminals are capable of delivering higher speeds based on mission requirements while ensuring compatibility with a Defense Department interoperability standard.

“The future for communications architectures in space lies in highly proliferated and laser-linked networks serving various use cases across commercial and government customers,” said Tina Ghataore, Mynaric’s president.

Space-BACN is one of several laser communications efforts designed to provide greater bandwidth and compatibility for linking a growing number of U.S. and western satellite constellations. Most rely on crowded RF communications spectrum to communicate with ground stations.

Managers of NASA’s recently launched Laser Communications Relay Demonstration note that optical frequencies are unregulated, meaning near-infrared spectrum is more widely available than constrained RF frequencies.

DARPA’s effort envisions a satellite communications network that creates optical links to commercial providers that could then connect with government satellites. Eventually, the reconfigurable system would be able “connect to an altogether different system that has yet to even be created,” according to Greg Kuperman, program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office

Mynaric’s task will be coming up with an architecture that meets stringent DARPA requirements for providing 100-Gbps performance using 100 watts or less power. DARPA is also specifying a terminal design with a unit cost of no greater than $100,000.

This article was originally published on EE Times.

George Leopold has written about science and technology from Washington, D.C., since 1986. Besides EE Times, Leopold’s work has appeared in The New York Times, New Scientist, and other publications. He resides in Reston, Va.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Leave a comment