Rudolf Saathof

Opto-mechatronics challenges for future laser communications

11:00 – 11:30

Laser communication is considered a key enabler for future high throughput and secure data communications between satellites, UAV’s and ground stations. As compared to conventional radio frequency (RF) communication, the use of shorter optical wavelengths poses significant advantages in terms of power efficiency, minimal interference, high-data throughput, and security. Large satellite constellations, consisting of hundreds of satellites are foreseen in the near future, which are all interconnected via laser communication terminals.

Directing a laser beam with small divergence to the partnering satellite or ground station spaced several thousand kilometres apart poses several interesting opto-mechatronic challenges. Amongst others, vibrations of the spacecraft and atmospheric turbulence easily compromises beam stability, which should be in the range of microradians. To respond to the need of optical satellite communications, TNO and industrial partners are joining forces to develop laser communications components and systems for both ground and space segments.

Ground-based optical communications terminals are being developed using adaptive optics systems to compensate for atmospheric turbulence. The development of space segments is targeted to systems and components with high compactness, and low overall recurring cost. This is needed to anticipate the needs for future laser constellations market, which requires thousands of laser communication terminals. This includes fully integrated optical benches, and fine- and coarse pointing mechanisms. Furthermore, a complete laser communication terminal is developed targeted for use in cube-sats.

In this talk the principle of laser communication is introduced, and the opto-mechatronic challenges and solutions in this rapidly evolving field are presented.

Rudolf Saathof is working at the department of Optomechatronics at TNO on adaptive optics for laser satellite communication. TNO Optomechatronics designs, realizes and tests mechatronical systems for optical applications requiring extreme stability, highly accurate and fast motion, in extreme environments, for applications in astronomy, semicon and for nuclear fusion.

Saathof has a Master’s degree in mechanical automation and mechatronics at the University of Twente. His PhD thesis was on adaptive optics for EUV lithography at Delft University of Technology. He worked as post-doc researcher at the Technical University in Vienna, on active vibration isolation, nano-metrology and optical satellite communication.

Rudolf Saathof