WASHINGTON — Tesat-Spacecom’s laser communications terminals passed key ground tests required to be deployed on Space Development Agency satellites, the company announced Oct. 26.

Tesat’s SCOTT80 optical terminal was selected by Lockheed Martin, one of several manufacturers under contract to produce satellites for the Space Development Agency.

SDA, an agency under the U.S. Space Force, plans to deploy a mesh network of interconnected satellites. It includes a Transport Layer that will transmit data collected by a Tracking Layer of missile-detection sensor satellites. Each spacecraft is equipped with multiple laser communications terminals. 

Optical terminals use lasers to connect satellites in orbit so they can transfer data in space. 

Tesat’s terminals will be integrated with Lockheed Martin’s satellites that will be part of SDA’s Transport Layer Tranche 1 satellites scheduled to launch in late 2024. Lockheed Martin is also using CACI’s optical terminals for Tranche 1 satellites. 

All optical terminals installed on SDA satellites have to comply with technical specifications and standards issued by the agency. They also have to be interoperable with terminals made by other suppliers

Interoperability with other manufacturers

As part of the ground tests, Tesat’s terminal had to establish a data communication link with a reference modem, as well as with Mynaric and CACI terminals. Mynaric’s terminal will be on SDA’s Tranche 1 satellites made by Northrop Grumman.

“This achievement demonstrates that Tesat terminals comply with the technical specifications and standards issued by SDA and are interoperable with third-party products,” the company’s CEO Thomas Reinartz said in a statement.

The company noted that the SCOTT80 optical terminal also was selected by Kepler Communications for its low Earth orbit commercial constellation.

Tesat-Spacecom, based in Germany, is establishing a U.S. subsidiary to support military and commercial programs. The company is an independent subsidiary of Airbus Defense & Space. 

Tesat plans to start manufacturing optical terminals in Merritt Island, Florida. To date, there are 46 Tesat terminals in orbit and 180 are in production, the company said.

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...