ESA’s ScyLight (Secure and Laser communication technology) programme supports the research, development and evolution of optical communication – laser – technologies, and provides flight opportunities for their in-orbit verification.

Optical communication technologies are the next revolution in satcoms, bringing unprecedented transmission rates, data security and resilience to meet commercial needs in the next decade.

As we demand more and more satellite services, the traditional satcom radio-frequency bands are experiencing bottlenecks. A ‘beaconless acquisition’ via laser link means the congested lower orbits are avoided and the terminals can be lighter, consume less power and offer more accuracy and security than radio.

Optical links also have the benefit of avoiding interference and detection, as in comparison to the already-crowded radio frequencies, laser communication is extremely difficult to intercept due to a much narrower beam.

They are also capable of carrying far larger amounts of data than the alternatives, which in today’s Big Data reality is of paramount importance for ‘future proof’ services.

Under ScyLight, ESA conducts system studies and market analyses to explore how optical technologies can best be developed and applied to meet market demand. Industry can also participate, by applying to the ScyLight Call for Proposals to request support for anything from R&D up to in-orbit proof of concept missions.

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