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Optical Ground Station: Safran revolutionizing space communications

Imagine ultra-fast data transfers between satellites and ground stations, enabling real-time transmission of high-definition data and images! This is made possible by optical technologies, which free space communications from the distance and range limitations of radiofrequency systems. Safran Data Systems is positioning itself as a major player in this revolution.


Focusing on optical technologies

Going farther, faster, and handling more data: optical technologies offer unprecedented opportunities for space, with data rates 10 to 100 times higher compared to traditional radiofrequency communications.

In the era of NewSpace, the dramatic reduction in satellite size has opened a window to a multitude of new services. This miniaturization has significantly improved accessibility and reduced costs associated with satellite deployment, enabling exploration and development of space applications that were previously inaccessible or too costly. Natural resource monitoring, risk management, and space exploration are now within reach. However, the rapid transmission of data to Earth remains a major challenge: space communication networks must constantly evolve to meet these demands.

These needs align perfectly with Safran's development strategy in this sector, which is why the company is now involved in designing ground stations and optical equipment for satellite operations for all types of stakeholders (agencies, NewSpace companies, service providers, etc.).

"We are convinced that optical communications are a true revolution, paving the way for new applications that will push the boundaries of current space communications," explains Sylvain Baissac, Commercial and Marketing Director of ground activities at Safran Data Systems. "Our commitment to developing optical or radiofrequency technologies through Safran Data Systems is an investment in the future of our industry."

Safran, a global leader in ground stations for space

Safran Data Systems' goal is to shape future generations of ground communication stations with Space, thus consolidating its position as a global leader in ground stations for the space and flight testing markets.

At the forefront of technological development, Safran's optical innovations complement its existing offerings for space communications on the market: TT&C modems, high-speed demodulators for Earth observation, multi-band parabolic antennas, electronically scanned antennas (AESA), and more.

High-speed Optical Ground Stations to meet space needs


Drawing from its expertise in space communications, Safran Data Systems is developing the future of Earth-Space communication: Optical Ground Stations (OGS). Named "IRIS," these optical antennas enhance Safran's communication offerings, alongside the ARES, LEGION, VISION, ORION antennas, and electronically scanned antennas (AESA).

Unlike a traditional ground station with a radiofrequency (RF) antenna, an optical ground station consists of a telescope and optoelectronic components for laser communication transmission and reception.

The optical ground stations also integrate the latest addition to the Cortex family, the Cortex Lasercom. Building on the success of Cortex HDR, the world's leading satellite image reception modem, Cortex Lasercom becomes the reference optical modem. This cutting-edge instrument exceeds all expectations, ensuring communication speeds 10 to 100 times faster than traditional methods based on radiofrequencies.

With this new equipment, Safran ensures that its turnkey solutions are compatible with the needs of the space industry. Optical stations are natively compatible with CCSDS (Consultative Committee for Space data Systems) and SDA (Space Data Association) standards: this flexibility ensures a perfect fit for a wide range of satellites, paving the way for new applications.

Three Optical Ground Stations already manufactured

The first optical ground station was developed as part of the "Co-Op" call for projects under the French government's recovery plan, operated by the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES). Safran Data Systems was selected to manufacture a reference optical ground station, which will be used to test and validate new optical communication systems. The station is currently installed in Arcachon.

In 2022, Contec, a Korean New Space startup, selected Safran Data Systems to develop its network of Optical Ground Stations. Safran will deliver a turnkey optical OGS station, which will be installed on the West Coast of Australia in 2024.



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