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Game Changing Development

Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC)

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

The GCD Program funded Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) Project is targeting at least 10x higher instantaneous downlink data-rate while utilizing the equivalent mass and power of a state-of-art  deep-space RF telecommunication system.  This is achieved by having: Sub-microradian pointing control to enable transmitting microradian beam-width lasers from deep-space spaceraft Power-efficient direct-detection modulation and coding signaling that operate to within 1-2 dB of theoretical channel capacity High peak-to-average  power ratio (~ 160) laser transmitters that support the modulation schemes Sensitive photon-counting detectors on both the space and ground ends of the link sensitive to irradiance levels of a few pW/m2. The game changing aspect of this technology is to design mass and power efficient systems that can operate with the long round-trip light times, large point-ahead angles  encountered by deep-space spacecraft.  These technology challenges and risks coupled with the diverse link and atmospheric conditions cannot be addressed and retired by near-earth optical communication demonstrations.  In order to migrate to an operational capability with optical technology a network of large aperture (10-12m diameter) dedicated ground telescopes are needed.  These currently do not exist.  However, existing large aperture diameter (> 5m) astronomical telescopes can be adopted to support technology demonstrations that will validate the flight transceiver functions and performance.  It is expected that after a successful Technology Demonstration Mission (TDM) of optical communication from deep-space justification for the development of ground infrastructure will be established with an eye to eventually migrating deep-space optical receivers to earth orbit with future advancements in deploying large aperture telescopes in space. The optical technology also supports high rate uplink data transmission capability and eventually can be matured to provide high precision ranging for future science and navigation.

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