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UK delves into free-space optical communications

9th August 2021 - 16:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Free-space optics as envisaged by DARPA in its FOENEX programme. (Photo: DARPA)

Dstl seeks to accelerate military decision-making via lasers for the rapid transfer of ISR data.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) on 9 August announced a £9.5 million ($13.15 million) contract for UK company In-Space Missions to build the Titania communications research satellite.

The contract was awarded under the Serapis Lot 2 commercial framework run by Dstl in collaboration with BAE Systems.

When launched in 2023, the compact satellite will support the Titania Operational Concept Demonstrator which is exploring the military utility of low Earth orbit (LEO) direct-to-earth free-space optical communications (FSOC).

By transmitting data at high speeds (many gigabytes per second) via narrow laser beam between two specific points, ‘FSOC has the potential to transform military communications with its ability to transfer large volumes of data, with a low risk of detection or interception’, Dstl and the MoD noted in a joint statement.

The end result should be faster military decision-making via the rapid transfer of ISR data.

Dstl space programme manager Dr Mike O’Callaghan said: ‘The Titania space mission will accelerate the development and adoption of space-based optical communications, allowing our Armed Forces the ability to operate in an increasingly contested environment.’

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