Rendering of BlueHalo's laser communications terminals. Credit: BlueHalo

WASHINGTON — BlueHalo won an $11 million contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory to develop a pair of optical laser communications terminals and a ground station that will be used for on-orbit experiments, the company announced June 14.

The terminals and ground stations, to be delivered in 2025, will support demonstrations of optical uplinks and downlinks between satellites in geostationary and low Earth orbits. They also will be used to establish space-to-ground links, to demonstrate positioning and timing over optical communication links, and interoperability with multiple optical communications standards.

BlueHalo, a privately owned defense and intelligence contractor based in Arlington, Virginia, developed optical communications technology used by NASA in its recent Laser Communications Relay Demonstration that flew to orbit in December as part of the U.S. Space Force’s Space Test Program 3 mission.

Vikram Manikonda, BlueHalo’s chief technology officer, said in a statement that laser communications technology allows “high data rate communications, ranging, and timing services with low probability of intercept or detection due to extremely narrow beam widths.”

The AFRL demonstration, he said, will push technological breakthroughs in optical jitter control and precision pointing.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...