Small-satellite based earth-observation networks transfer the hyperspectral imaging or SAR data to the earth in large volumes with data relay networks. Imaging missions of a fleet of small satellites generate an enormous volume of data every day. Unfortunately, conventional radio frequency downlink systems cannot provide sufficient bandwidth to small satellite networks. Although laser downlinks offer the potential of multi-gigabit-per-second download speeds, there are practicality issues. As opposed to radio frequency downlink options, laser downlinks are more susceptible to bad weather. Thus, geosynchronous earth orbit data relay systems are operated to receive optical communication from Earth-observing satellites. Then, Ka-band RF downlink is used to relay those communications to the ground.
Imaging satellites shrink both in size and mass with the new sensor technology. However, (~35 kg) laser terminal that is still used to communicate with geosynchronous earth orbit data relay systems causing the size and weight limitations. Thus, a network of, short-range optical or RF communication optical relay satellites is needed. First, the satellites relay the data with a much smaller optical terminal to the satellite network around the Earth. Then, individual most capable satellites provide the downlink to the ground.
At Belpico, we are developing optical downlinks and optical crosslinks for CubeSat-scale low earth orbit satellites. We are planning to provide high data rates approaching 1 Gb/s with low latency. Eventually, our technology will eliminate the need for capital investment for costly ground station networks. New satellite companies will use our optical crosslinks to provide passage for others while transferring their data to the ground through the network.