The Chinese satellite manufacturer and constellation operator, Changguang Satellite Technology (CGST), has successfully demonstrated space-to-ground high-speed laser communications. This breakthrough could help China overcome data transmission bottlenecks and significantly improve the speed and efficiency of getting data from space down to the ground.
The test was conducted using CGST’s Jilin-1 MF02A04 remote sensing satellite in cooperation with the Aerospace Information Research Institute (AIR) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). CGST is an offshoot of the state-owned Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics (CIOMP), which is under the umbrella of CAS.
During the test, the connection speeds achieved an ultra-high-speed of 10 Gbps, which is a significant improvement compared to the previous best of 1 Gbps using radio frequency transmissions. This breakthrough signals numerous advancements in key technologies and marks the first ultra-high-speed (10Gbps) application for commercial purposes in China.
CGST, established in 2014, currently operates 108 remote sensing satellites in orbit. The company plans to expand its Jilin-1 constellation to include 300 satellites by the year 2025. With this technology, CGST aims to enhance its data transmission capabilities and support a wide range of applications, including remote sensing and Earth observation.
The successful demonstration of space-to-ground high-speed laser communications by Changguang Satellite Technology (CGST) and the Aerospace Information Research Institute (AIR) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) involved the development of several key technologies. These technologies include atmospheric channel prediction, task planning and scheduling, rapid capture, signal chain construction, adaptive optical correction of laser signals, and error-free transmission under complex atmospheric conditions.
The Jilin-1 satellites, operated by CGST, generally provide panchromatic imagery with resolutions between 0.50 and 0.75 meters. Other satellites in the Jilin-1 constellation have various capabilities, including video, multispectral, multipurpose, and infrared imaging. During the transmission tests, CGST published images delivered to Earth, showcasing the capabilities of their system.
This breakthrough is expected to enhance China’s space information network by improving the transmission capacity and security. As China plans to expand its low Earth orbit satellite constellations, the use of high-speed laser communications, along with potential inter-satellite laser links, can help overcome challenges associated with limited global ground station infrastructure.
It’s worth noting that while the tests demonstrated the accuracy of narrow beam optical transmissions of data through the atmosphere, Chinese sources did not mention details regarding the development of cost-effective optical terminals, which are essential for the practical implementation of laser communications technology. However, this successful demonstration marks a significant step forward for China in the field of high-speed space-to-ground data transmission.