Technologies for an interplanetary trunkline


Tools to build a solution

A high-data-rate interplanetary optical communications link is ten to twenty years from implementation, but vital for the continued exploration of our solar system. Accelerated development of the required technologies must begin now to provide a suitable and cost-effective solution to the communication problem.

Research must focus on certain key technologies directed towards a unified goal.

  • Interplanetary communications system modelling
    • on-Earth vs. near-Earth receiving station
    • atmospheric transmission effects (seeing, attenuation)
    • identification of suitable wavelengths
    • heterodyne vs. direct detection
    • holographically corrected vs. conventional telescopes
    • computer simulation of competing/complementary designs (performance analysis)
  • Laser transmitter
    • high power
    • high beam quality
    • high efficiency
    • high modulation speed
    • scalable laser technology for future-proofing
  • Telescope tracking and guidance
    • Space-based transmitter pointing at interplanetary ranges
    • Ground-based tracking of satellites
  • Optical detectors
    • low noise
    • high speed
    • photon counting
    • direct detection vs. heterodyne technologies
  • Cost-effective large aperture telescopes
    • Narrowband operation suggests holographic correction of inexpensive mirrors (most likely for space-based receiver application)
    • Possible use of narrowband filters to minimise noise for daylight operation
    • Tunable narrowband filters allow for Doppler shifts due to spacecraft velocities
  • Space-borne telescopes
  • Atmospheric optical properties
    • transmittance
    • refractive turbulence
    • seeing

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Originally created by Andrew McGrath on July 10, 2002