Advanced Television

SpaceX to sell lasers to competitors

March 26, 2024

Some SpaceX satellites are already fitted with laser-based devices (officially called Optical Inter-Satellite Links, OISLs). At the Satellite 2024 event in Washington SpaceX’s president and COO Gwynne Shotwell explained that SpaceX was happy to start selling its lasers to other companies.

Shotwell said that SpaceX has around 5000 lasers in use of its satellites, and having successfully proven the technology and reliability of its in-house manufacturing, it is clearly time for SpaceX to capitalise on its R&D and supply these “plug and plaser” units, in the words of Shotwell.

The move is another example of how SpaceX is encroaching on other businesses, whether suppliers of airline communications and itself stealing business from the likes of HughesNet and Viasat, while deploying maritime broadband to Cruise ships and other marine users.

The laser links are extremely useful to any user, and means that the data, messages, email and broadband signals no longer need to ‘land’ in a country (perhaps a hostile nation to SpaceX) for carriage and delivery around the planet. The laser link can be downloaded to a Gateway set in a friendly nation.

But in this regard SpaceX is not unique. For example, Mynaric is described as a pure-play space company that has been focused on building space lasers, and winning valuable contracts to the Pentagon’s SDA programme.

Another is would-be operator Rivada Space which has 300 satellites in production at Terran orbital and which it describes as the world’s first ‘OuterNet’ where lasers are used to bounce messages around the planet in milliseconds.

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