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Center Innovation Fund: ARC CIF

Modulating Retro-Reflectors: High-Speed Assymmetric Laser Communications with Low-Fidelity Pointing Requirements (MRR)

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

This project aims to advance a novel optical communication technology for spacecraft based on modulating retro-reflectors.  

Modulating retro-reflectors (MRR) are a potential communication alternative for small spacecraft. Retro-reflectors directly reflect a laser beam back to its source, regardless of its orientation. Using additional semiconductor technology, the return signal can be modulated, adding data transfer capability to the retro-reflector. A ground station would send up a laser beam to the spacecraft, and would receive high-speed data through the modulated return beam. The benefit of the system is that it utilizes the advantages of optical communication without imposing advanced attitude control requirements onto the spacecraft. The project investigates the requirements for MRR communication on small spacecraft and tests capabilities of different MRR prototypes. Outcomes: The conducted laboratory experiments confirmed the MRR prototype's specifications as provided by the vendor. Analytical studies refined the communication link budgets.  

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