Available Technology

Laser Communications Transceiver

A compact, reduced-complexity, low-cost laser communications transceiver for downlinking data from Earth-orbiting spacecraft
JPL's laser communications transceiver comprises two primary modules: an optics module and an electronics/laser module. The optics module includes a 5-cm diameter telescope, a two-axis coarse-pointing gimbal, monitoring sensors, and thermal control. The electronics module includes a transmitter, processor, controllers, and power conditioning. Keeping optical uplink rate modest and emphasizing downlink, the high-bandwidth downlink transmitter uses coarse wavelength-division multiplexing for operation at four 2.5-Gb/s channels (a total data-rate of 10 Gb/s). Applying this technique enables the use of larger active-area photodetectors at the ground station, which reduces the atmospheric scintillation/turbulence effects on received beam; these effects are further reduced with forward-error correction and deep-interleaver codes. A compact laser communications transceiver with a single transmit/receive aperture has been built using components with traceability to flight qualification (i.e., a flight-qualified version is commercially available). The transmit downlink wavelengths fall within the standard C-band telecom grid of erbium-doped fiber amplifiers (EDFAs): 1530 to 1560 nm. In the interest of eye safety, reduced background light, and reduced atmospheric turbulence effects, the received uplink beacon wavelength is longer (1568 nm).
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has developed a compact, low-cost laser communications space transceiver that surpasses the severe spectrum-allocation and bandwidth limitations of conventional radio-frequency communication systems. The innovative design reduces complexity, size, mass, and cost by using readily available flight-grade parts for the compact optics assembly and high-capability electronics assembly. JPL's laser communications transceiver can uniquely and inexpensively satisfy the high-bandwidth communications needs of Earth-orbiting spacecraft.

Capable of downlinking 10 Gb/s data rates from low Earth orbit to ground


High-bandwidth communications from Earth orbit

Earth-observing missions

Commercial spacecraft

Patent Number: 
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Patent Issue Date: 
June 9, 2015
Far West
Lab Representatives
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