Fast communication


A Vision

Optical communication offers several advantages over the presently used microwave links. Most obviously, the higher carrier frequencies allow higher modulation rates. Additionally, the shorter wavelengths spread the transmitted power over a smaller area for reception after hundreds of millions of kilometres of travel, providing an efficiency gain. The situation is analogous to the proliferation of optical fibre network links due to their superiority over coaxial copper cables.

The system envisioned would involve a communications relay satellite in Martian orbit, with UHF receivers collecting data from local exploration platforms, and a laser transmitter providing a high data rate to receivers on or near Earth. Various technological approaches for the development of such a laser system can be conceived. In all such concepts, a laser transmitter, large aperture telescopes, and low-noise high-speed detectors are common elements.

Preliminary analysis shows 108 b/s rates to be sensible aims, for a system deployed on a 10 to 20 year timescale, but the expectation is the use of scalable technologies allowing a system to be scaled up as need and capability grow into the further future.

Such a system is clearly operationally in the order of two decades away, however the technologies required need to be developed to be strategically available when required.

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Originally created by Andrew McGrath on June 26, 2002