WASHINGTON — Tesat-Spacecom, a Germany-based manufacturer of optical terminals for communications satellites, announced March 9 it is establishing a U.S. subsidiary to support military and commercial programs.

Tesat-Spacecom is an independent subsidiary of Airbus Defense & Space. The U.S. subsidiary, named Tesat Government, is organized under Airbus U.S. Space & Defense, and will be able to support classified work, the company said. Tesat plans to start manufacturing optical terminals in Merritt Island, Florida, in late 2023.

The company last year revealed plans to expand its footprint in the United States due to growing military demand for laser links. Tesat has several contracts with spacecraft manufacturers building satellites for the U.S. Space Force’s Space Development Agency

The Space Development Agency (SDA) is building a mesh network of satellites in low Earth orbit to serve as a data transport layer for the U.S. military. Each satellite will have anywhere from three to five laser links so they can talk to other satellites, airplanes, ships and ground stations. 

SDA is buying satellites from multiple manufacturers and all their satellites have to be interoperable. The agency said it is using optical systems because they provide much higher transmission data rates than traditional radio-frequency links and are harder to intercept. A network of laser-link satellites also reduces the dependence on ground stations and extends coverage to remote areas where ground stations are not available. 

Tesat Government will deliver “American-made optical communication terminals for the U.S. security-restricted market,” the company’s CEO Thomas Reinartz said in a statement.

“In the past years, we have seen a growing demand for optical communication technologies not only from our commercial customers but also from governments,” he said. “In order to meet the U.S. government’s demand and comply with all national security restrictions and classified prospects, we decided to form Tesat Government.”

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...