Military Embedded Systems

Air-to-space laser comms system tested by GA-ASI


February 21, 2020

Emma Helfrich

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Photo courtesy of General Atomics.

POWAY, Calif. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has ground tested its Airborne Laser Communication System (ALCoS) by establishing a link with a satellite in Geo-synchronous Earth Orbit (GEO). GA-ASI conducted the test with Tesat-Spacecom (TESAT), space-based laser communication (lasercom) company, using their GEO Laser Communication Terminal (LCT), the LCT 135.

According to the company, this was the first demonstration of an air-to-space lasercom system with size, weight, and power (SWAP) that is compatible with a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).

GA-ASI tested the ALCoS from an optical observatory located on Tenerife in the Canary Islands and closed link with TESAT’s LCT 135 terminal onboard the GEO satellite Alphasat. The test demonstrated acquisition and tracking, and sufficient power to close the link with the LCT 135. GA-ASI is completing the development of the flight system for use on a GA-ASI-produced MQ-9 RPA.

ALCoS is the result of a five-year, GA-ASI-funded effort to deliver Low Probability of Intercept (LPI), Low Probability of Detect (LPD) communications link to the MQ-9. ALCOS was built with the intention to be able to operate as a gateway to the Joint Aerial Network for forward-deployed forces.



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