Advanced Television

Sony gets into space lasers

June 6, 2022

By Chris Forrester

Sony has announced a new business, Sony Space Communications Corporation (SSC), to conduct space optical communications.

“Currently there are approximately 12,000 satellites in space, and the number is expected to increase in the future. The amount of data used in orbit is also increasing year by year, but the amount of available radio waves is limited,” said Kyohei Iwamoto, President, Sony Space Communications Corp. “Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites need to communicate with the ground, so a large number of communications facilities are required for real-time communications, which is problematic because these satellites must pass directly over a ground station to communicate with it. Additionally, the need for frequency licenses for radio waves and the requirement for lower power consumption of communication equipment needed by smaller satellites, like micro satellites, are also issues to be addressed.”

To solve these problems, Sony says it plans to develop small optical communications devices to provide related services to connect micro satellites in LEO via a laser beam. SSC wants to offer this optical communications equipment as a service to companies working on satellite development. By using optical communications, SSC aims to realize high-speed communications with small devices, which are physically difficult to achieve with conventional radio communications because conventional communications require large antenna and high-power output. In addition, by constructing an optical communications network not only between satellites and the ground, but also between satellites in orbit, SSC aims to enable real-time communications from anywhere on the ground to any satellite in space. Optical communications are also easier to implement than traditional radio frequency communications as they do not require the certain types of licences that radio communication needs.

By providing easy-to-use inter-satellite communications capabilities, SSC says it aims to increase the amount of communications in space and realise an Internet communications network covering the Earth, space, and applications such as real-time services.

Sony Group has been conducting R&S on optical communications systems at its Sony Computer Science Laboratories. to enable high-speed data communications over long distances in a form that can be mounted on micro satellites. By applying the optical disc technology that Sony Group has cultivated over many years in the development and production of CD players and other products, it aims to realise optical communications devices that are ultra-compact, lightweight, mass producible, and can withstand harsh environments such as space.

Sony has already worked with the Japanese space agency (JAXA) and other bodies and successfully transmitted HD image data via Ethernet protocols. In 2021, this experimental device successfully established optical downlinks from space to a commercial optical ground station of Kongsberg Satellite Services in Greece.

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