WASHINGTON — U.S. aerospace giant Honeywell announced Dec. 15 it has teamed with telecommunications startup Skyloom to produce laser crosslink terminals for commercial and military satellites. 

Optical links enable satellites to communicate with each other and reduce networks’ reliance on ground stations. They provide much higher transmission data rates than traditional radio-frequency communications. 

Andrew Csizmar, Honeywell’s senior director of small satellites, told SpaceNews that the company is working with Skyloom to qualify laser communications terminals for the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency.

SDA will be the Defense Department’s largest buyer of optical terminals. It plans to build a constellation of hundreds of satellites in low Earth orbit that will be optically linked to other satellites, to ground stations and to military aircraft. The agency requires vendors to meet specific qualification requirements for optical terminals. 

Honeywell and Skyloom are working with one of SDA’s satellite suppliers, York Space Systems, which won a contract last year to produce 10 spacecraft for SDA’s Transport Layer Tranche 0. 

The Transport Layer Tranche 0, scheduled to launch in late 2022, includes 10 satellites from York Space and 10 made by Lockheed Martin. 

“Honeywell and Skyloom are collaborating in meeting the Tranche 0 optical inter-satellite link contract with Skyloom,” said Csizmar. 

Honeywell has an active production line in Cambridge, Ontario, that makes space-qualified hardware and has capacity to manufacture about 1,000 terminals per year, the company said.

As part of the partnership, Honeywell and Skyloom will jointly build a new manufacturing facility focused on optical terminals. Csizmar said the location of the new plant has not yet been identified. 

Skyloom, based in Oakland, California, aims to provide data transport services using a space-based infrastructure, said Marcos Franceschini, co-founder and CEO. “Our partnership with Honeywell will enable the next big step in global connectivity and pioneer an orbital infrastructure that will make us a true planetary society.”

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...