924 megabits per second. That is how fast you can transfer data with your personal computer in the tranquil small town of Carver, Massachusetts, with a population of just under 12,000. Carver is thereby at the very top of the top 100 list (source) regarding available internet bandwidth for private households in the US. Each of these 100 cities currently has a higher average bandwidth than the International Space Station, which – what has to be mentioned – has had its internet connection become updated in August 2019. Since humanity’s stronghold in space was by then connected to Earth’s surface with 10 Megabit per second, since the end of 2019 now 600 Mbit/s can be achieved. That corresponds roughly to the speed that is still the order of the day in the more rural regions of Germany, but that is an issue for another day.
What does laser communication have to do with all of this?
In 2022 a laser communication terminal (LCT) from TESAT, the TOSIRIS, which we developed and manufactured in cooperation with the Institute for Communication and Navigation at the German Aerospace Center (DLR-IKN), will be attached to the outer shell of the International Space Station. More precisely, on the external Bartolomeo payload that is attached to the Columbus science module.
The advantages of laser communication
TOSIRIS is a Direct-to-Earth-LCT and will make use of one of the many optical ground stations on Earth’ surface to transmit data at the speed of light – with up to 10 Gigabit per second. Research data, recordings, images and much more can then be sent back uncompressed and in full width at unprecedented speed. This not only will enable completely new areas of application such as space robotics, but also will help develop even more revolutionizing technologies in demand of high data rates and low latencies. For today’s future, laser communication from TESAT is the perfect match.
By this means, laser communication technology from TESAT catapults the ISS into the gigabit era.