DLR laser ter­mi­nal in space es­tab­lish­es con­tact with Japanese ground sta­tion

© DWIH Tokyo/iStock.com/NicoElNino
Our Supporter the German Aerospace Center (DLR) has successfully conducted a joint experiment with Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). The international cooperation of both organizations enabled the project, in which a laser terminal onboard a DLR satellite was able to successfully establish contact with a NICT ground station through optical data transmission.

The resolution of cameras and other sensors on Earth observation satellites is continuously increasing. This leads to vast amounts of data, which are still being transmitted to Earth using radio systems. The data link between the satellite and Earth limits the capability of these systems. A significant increase in data rates is possible with optical communication systems that use lasers to transmit data. Numerous images can be transmitted with high resolution. As part of an international cooperation, researchers from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the Japanese National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), supported by the University of Stuttgart, have started channel measurements for the transmission of data by laser in Japan. Recently, a first data link from space was received from the optical terminal ‘OSIRISv1’ at an optical ground station in Tokyo.

“Satellite-based laser communication heralds a new era in satellite communications,” says Christian Fuchs from the DLR Institute of Communications and Navigation. Fuchs oversees the Institute’s work in the field of optical communications. Next-generation systems already enable data rates of up to 10 gigabits per second. They are also smaller, lighter and require less electrical power than comparable radio systems. Since laser beams do not penetrate clouds, worldwide networks of optical ground stations are necessary to achieve the desired availability. OSIRISv1 (Optical Space Infrared Downlink System) was developed by DLR in cooperation with the Institute of Space Systems at the University of Stuttgart. It was successfully launched into space on the ‘Flying Laptop’ satellite in 2017.

More information:

“DLR laser terminal in space establishes contact with Japanese ground station” (German Aerospace Center DLR, March 25, 2021)

“Successful International Joint Experiment Between Japan and Germany in the Field of Space Optical Communication Using a Small Satellite” (National Institute of Information and Communications Technology NICT, press release, March 25, 2021)