Enabling Deep Space Exploration with Faster Communication

Around the world, organisations are setting their sights on pushing the frontiers of human experience outward into the solar system. From the International Space Station on low-Earth orbit, exploring the Moon and Mars are next on the agenda. To enable it, we need robust systems for data transfer. TNO has eight years of expertise in optical laser communication technology. We are ready to help bring deep space closer than ever before possible.

More information about Deep Space Exploration with Faster Communication

Contact Oana van der Togt


A network of opportunities

Every space mission will require stable, high-bandwidth systems to ensure the exchange of enormous amounts of data. Optical communication offers the solution: using laser satellite technology, optical communication can increase data download rates from kbits per second to Mbits per second with unparalleled efficiency. And since TNO has been optimising optical communication technology for near-Earth satellite communication, it is now ready to solve the additional challenges of communication with deep space.

To the moon and back

Repurposing existing technology means that TNO can accelerate the development of a lunar communication terminal. In fact, TNO will have the technology needed for a lunar communication terminal ready for in-orbit demonstration by 2023. All at a very competitive cost compared to new solutions. This means that, by 2023, the optical technology to exchange data with the moon can be ready

Low-cost mirror cell for large aperture telescope

From near-earth to deep space systems

From there, TNO aims to take the next step in developing similar systems, and eventually an entire deep space network, for data transfer. As exploration activities aim farther into our own solar system and beyond, TNO’s systems will be adapted for greater distances and the resulting lower photon availability. In this way, TNO aims to push the boundaries of what’s possible when few photons are available to communicate. These high photon efficiency systems can be used in space and enable stable, sustainable data exchange across vast distances.

Boosting performance for higher efficiency

To achieve our ambitions, TNO is improving the technology for existing ground stations and laser satellites. This entails selecting optical and digital system implementations that result in the compact and power-efficient terminals suitable for communication over enormous distances. This therefore addresses the additional challenges of an optical link with the lunar station. And these improvements will in turn lead to further innovations for a wide range of optical link applications, both on Earth and in space.

Lunar optical communication terminal

Key technologies for deep-space exploration

What’s more, TNO is developing key enabling technologies for High Photon Efficiency Wave Front Sensors. This new technology will enable characterisation of wave fronts with poor signal availability. For example, for lunar and deep-space communication, but also for the implementation of daytime laser guide stars. Secondly, TNO is solving the challenges of the interconnecting telescope systems with fibre-coupled photon counting detectors. TNO’s innovations will solve the delicate light-routing challenges of this technology.

Exploring deeper into space will require stable, reliable and cost-effective communications and satellite technology. TNO is on the forefront of this technology’s development. Ready to discuss how our optical communications technology can get you closer to deep space? Contact Oana van der Togt today.


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