(NextGov) Satellites are becoming increasingly important as they help us meet a demand for more data, exchanged at higher speeds. This is why we are exploring new ways of improving satellite communication.
CubeSats, no larger than a shoebox or toaster, that can employ high speed data links to other satellites or the ground are currently used for a wide range of tasks including earth observation, communications and scientific experiments in space. And while they’re not able to provide all services from space, they play an important role in current and future satellite systems.
While a single radio-frequency link can provide data rates of 10Gbps with large antennas, an optical link can achieve rates 10 to 100 times higher, using antennas that are 10 to 100 times smaller. These small antennas are in fact optical lenses, and their compact size allows them to be integrated into the small CubeSats.
Optical communication can also be used for Quantum Key Distribution. This technology allows the absolute secure exchange of encryption keys for safe communications.