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Laser Communication with CubeSats

Kerri Cahoy, Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT
Thursday, September 13, 2018
4:00 PM
1009 - Boeing Lecture Hall Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Building Map
Laser Communication with CubeSats

Kerri Cahoy
Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT

CubeSats can be as large as a toaster oven, only with 100 times less available power. CubeSats typically use radio frequency (RF) communication, where higher data rates usually belong to commercial CubeSats. Due to size, weight, and power (SWaP) limits and regulatory constraints, most CubeSats transmit at <2 Watts with relatively low gain antennas. With the rapid growth in CubeSats on orbit, RF licensing is a challenge. Laser communications (lasercom) systems have access to currently unregulated bandwidth. We demonstrate how improvement in fine pointing capability allows CubeSats in Low Earth Orbit to track a ground station or crosslink to another CubeSat, enabling lasercom up to Gbps, with enough power efficiency to allow use of instrument payloads. Low-cost, compact lasercom terminals can support large constellations or swarms of CubeSat sensors collecting terabytes or petabytes of remote sensing data daily. Lasercom downlinks and crosslinks within constellations and swarms can also enable exchanges of large volumes of data for autonomous onboard processing toward intelligent system planning and scheduling. We discuss MIT's Nanosatellite Optical Downlink Experiment and its corresponding Portable Telescope for Lasercom (PorTeL), MIT's CubeSat Lasercom Infrared CrosslinK mission (CLICK), and MIT's Scheduling, Planning and Routing Intersatellite Networking Tool (SPRINT).
Building: Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Building
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Engineering
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Aerospace Engineering