EU project achieves record free-space communication speeds

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Credit: MAGNIFIER, shutterstock

The Horizon 2020 funded Vertigo project has completed a successful field trial of ground-to-ground high-speed laser communication link through the atmosphere. 

The trial represents a major step towards the next generation of Geostationary communications satellites using optical feeder links to double the current available feeder link capacity. 

The three-year Vertigo project (Very High Throughput Satellite-Ground Optical link) launched on 1 June 2019. The consortium is composed of six European industry partners and three research organisations.

During the test campaign in Switzerland, project partners ETH Zurich, Onera (the French Aerospace lab) and Thales Alenia Space demonstrated a record transmission speed in free-space of up to one terabit per second (equal to 1,000 gigabits per second) on a single wavelength and over a distance of 53 kilometres.  

The achievement was established under extremely challenging conditions by transmitting data through a turbulent propagation channel between Jungfraujoch Research Station in Swiss Alps and Zimmerwald Observatory in the neighbourhood of Bern. 

The trial was the opportunity to test the combination of key technologies for optical links including adaptive optics, multi-aperture techniques as well as a variety of modulation formats.

‘These solutions will play a key role to bridge the digital divide and offer high-speed connectivity for all by 2025, said Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales (67 per cent) and Leonardo (33 per cent), in a statement. 'The objective is also to boost satellite capacity in order to reduce the number of satellites required to satisfy the user demand, thus limiting the impact on the environment.'

Vertigo is now moving to the next and final step of the project dedicated to high power communication link tests in a laboratory environment at Thales Research and Technology.

The next step beyond this project will target a full-scale laser link between a geostationary satellite, at an altitude of 36,000 kilometres, and a ground station.


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