Sony has launched a new subsidiary that is developing technology for laser-based satellite communications in space. Called Sony Space Communications Corp, the subsidiary is working on designing optical satellite communications technologies for establishing data transfers between satellites in orbit – as well as satellite to ground communications.
Laser-based satellite communication technology is an alternative to radio frequency satellite communications, which bypass obstacles such as speed of data transfer and net bandwidth as well over the older radio frequency-based transfer of data. The global satellite industry sees laser technology as the future of long-range communications in space, where the laser signal can be amplified using optical beam expanders.
Such technology, however, is not entirely new. US-based private space company SpaceX, which operates a large number of low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites as part of its satellite communications service Starlink, already uses laser-based satellite communications technology to beam internet connectivity down to Earth.
In India, private space-tech startup Astrogate is building a proprietary laser satellite communications platform, which it eventually plans to retrofit in existing satellites – and deploy in new generation satellites – to help them use the newer technology in place of radio frequency-based communications.
In an interview with Mint, Nitish Singh, chief executive of Astrogate, said that alongside bandwidth and speed of data transfer, one key advantage of laser satellite communications is the ability to use significantly smaller terminals to receive the signal. The latter, Singh said, could help deploy satellite internet services in significantly more areas than what RF-based satellite receivers could practically offer.
Central space agencies are also working to deploy laser technology in their satellites. In December last year, USA’s central space agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), deployed its Laser Communications Relay Demonstrations (LCRD) aboard the nation’s defence department’s Space Test Program Satellite-6.
Earlier this year, UK’s central space agency also sanctioned the building of laser communication technology to incorporate the same in the nation’s own satellites.
In India, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has already conducted a pilot trial with laser-based satellite communications, according to Astrogate’s Singh. The latter was the technology provider for India’s central space agency’s trial.