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AAC Clyde Space to commercialize TNO’s laser terminal for satellite comms

22 May 2024

With FSO Instruments supplying key component; promises new supply chain for this technology.

Small satellite technologies multinational company AAC Clyde Space, based in Uppsala, Sweden, has secured rights to leverage Dutch research agency TNO’s optical technology for manufacturing and distributing laser satellite communication terminals. Financial details were not disclosed

TNO’s technology facilitates the transmission of satellite-generated data to earth by laser, promising high speed and security in broadband connectivity, surpassing conventional radio-frequency communication methods.

Additionally, with Dutch company FSO Instruments serving as the supplier of the core optical component of the terminal, also derived from TNO’s research, this arrangement could help establish an international supply chain for laser satellite communication terminals.

Kees Buijsrogge, Director of TNO Space, commented, “This new collaboration underscores our dedication to accelerate the transfer of our technology, fostering the growth of optical satellite communication capabilities in the Netherlands and bolstering a robust network within Europe and NATO.”

The new agreement grants AAC Clyde Space the right to use TNO’s laser communication terminal technology for 20 years. Measuring 10 x 10 x 10 cm these terminals are suited for small satellites, in which AAC Clyde Space specializes. Their aim is to make a commercially viable laser communication terminal for small satellites which can be produced on a large scale.

To fully develop the terminal AAC Clyde Space needs additional optical technology, which FSO Instruments will provide. FSO Instruments recently entered in a similar license agreement to build on TNO’s technology and expertise in optical heads, optical benches and a system for coarse pointing alignment.

By cross-licensing TNO’s optical technologies it establishes a supply chain for the production of small satellite communication terminals, which is the first of its kind in the Netherlands.

How it works

Laser satellite communication provides links between ground stations, satellites, aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. Using the infra-red wavelength band, laser communication can achieve data transfer speeds of 100 to 1000 times faster than radio frequencies, currently used for communications. Moreover, laser communication links are seen as more secure because very narrow optical laser beams are used instead of wide radio signals.

Luis Gomes, CEO of AAC Clyde Space, said, “Advances in high data volume payloads such as Earth Observation payloads for CubeSats and SmallSats have highlighted the need for improved downlink capability in small form factors. The global demand for laser satellite communication applications is on an upward trajectory. Through this partnership we are poised to both capitalise on this demand and strengthen the Dutch reputation internationally for innovative new space solutions.”

ABTechLaCroix Precision OpticsBerkeley Nucleonics CorporationTRIOPTICS GmbHSPECTROGON ABHÜBNER PhotonicsUniverse Kogaku America Inc.
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