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Trends in satellite communications and the role of optical free-space communications [Invited]

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Feature Issue on Optical Wireless Communications (OWC)

The communication needs of Earth observation satellites is steadily increasing. Within a few years, the data rate of such satellites will exceed 1 Gbit/s, the angular resolution of sensors will be less than 1 μrad, and the memory size of onboard data recorders will be beyond 1 Tbyte. Compared with radio frequency links, optical communications in space offers various advantages, such as smaller and lighter equipment, higher data rates, limited risk of interference with other communications systems, and the effective use of frequency resources. This paper describes and compares the major features of radio and optical frequency communications systems in space and predicts the needs of future satellite communications.

© 2005 Optical Society of America

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