JAXA, Sony to research in-orbit laser communications

Image courtesy of JAXA.

JAXA, Sony Computer Science Laboratories (CSL) and Sony Corporation have signed a cooperative research agreement on conducting in-orbit demonstrations of laser communications system, according to its press release.

This research will be conducted on the Kibo module on the International Space Station (ISS) and aims to establish a communications system of data between spacecraft and between Earth and Space.

Since 2016, JAXA’s Space Exploration Innovation Hub and Sony have cooperatively conducted primary studies of the laser communications, using the precision oriented optical disc technology.

The studies have been based on the agreement made in 2016 on Low-power Optical Modem for Long-distance communication, as part of “Open Innovation Hub for Expanding Humanosphere and the Domain of Human Activity through Solar System Frontier Development”. JAXA became one of the contractors of the Open Innovation Hub, an initiative by Japan Science and Technology Agency.

Later in 2017, Sony CSL took over and has continued the fundamental research. Sony CSL and the Innovation Hub have established the feasibility of laser communications technology and have developed the flight model of the optical communications module.

Preparation is under way to demonstrate the motion of the laser link technology in Kibo and to verify orbital performance in late Japanese fiscal year 2018. The demonstrations will be carried out at one of the ports located at the Kibo extravehicular platform. There, the optical communications module will be attached to the IVA-replaceable Small Exposed Experiment Platform (i-SEEP), a hardware adapter developed by JAXA.

The late Japanese fiscal 2018 orbital demonstrations are to be partially funded by a fee-based contract between Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, JAXA and Sony CSL. The contract results from the parties’ effort initiated in late 2017 to facilitate Kibo. An experiment at the i-SEEP takes almost a year to prepare for.

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