[24th Global MilSatCom] Participated in the European Military Satellite Communications Conference. What Optical Communication Brings to National Security?

November 7–9, governments, companies, and military officials from around the world gathered at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London, England near Westminster Abbey, where Queen Elizabeth II had her state funeral. The 24th annual Global MilSatCom Conference & Exhibition was held there to discuss security (especially communications) using satellites.

About 500 participants attended booths and panel sessions on the main stage for three days, exchanging opinions on security from the perspective of communications and sharing new technologies.

Participated companies include Honeywell, which has a presence in the aerospace industry, Eutelsat, a giant satellite operator based in Paris, and OneWeb, a major satellite communications company. In addition, government officials from NATO and other Western security organizations were also in attendance. WARPSPACE’s CSO Mori participated in the panel discussion and presentation.

The Superiority of Optical Communications from a Security Perspective.

The panel, in which he participated, engaged in energetic discussions on a variety of topics. One topic was the European Data Relay System (EDRS), a satellite launched in January 2016 together by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus, a private company, that uses optical communications to relay data from Low Earth Observation(LEO) satellites when transmitting them to the ground, which achieved 67,000 transmissions.

On the other hand, David Dean, technical advisor to the UK’s Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL, the UK version of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)), said that optical communications are more difficult to jam than radio wave, leading to significant improvements in communication security and reliability.

The participants asked about problems with radio wave, which are currently used for satellite communications and other applications. In addition to the problems of communication security, the deterioration of available radio wave band was also mentioned.

From this perspective, one of the highlights was confirming the importance of optical communications technology in defense. Of course, optical communications are not a perfect technology, and there are the challenge of the difficulty of connecting communications.

However, Mori felt, “We are aware of the challenges of optical communications. Therefore, it is believed that even 10 years from now, it will not completely replace current radio wave. But even without such a perspective, there is a great demand for the urgent development of demonstrations.”

A view of the panel discussion. Second, from the right is WARPSPACE CSO Mori. To his left is David Dean, DSTL’s technical advisor.

The Increasing Presence of Space Forces Around the World.

On the other hand, he said that the roadmap of space forces around the world were impressive in the Keynote Speech on the main stage. In the past few years, space forces have been established in many countries around the world from the perspective of cyber security and missile defense, etc. In fact, the number of presentations by NATO and space force executives from various countries increased, indicating that space forces are becoming more active as an entity next to land, sea and air cyber following the establishment of space agencies in various countries.

Especially, Future Vision 2050, which was introduced as a roadmap by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), emphasized the importance of optical communications as a communication infrastructure for Korea’s future space development, including lunar space exploration.

Future Vision 2050 is presented as a roadmap by KARI. A red laser (optical communications) connects the lunar surface, the space station, and the ground via a transponder. (©KARI)

The U.S. Artemis program, as well as China and other countries, are realistic plans for manned exploration of the lunar surface. Communications is the key among them, and we are budgeting for it from a defense perspective and investing in it as a key technology for the next 20–30 years.

“Space” is truly a new frontier. The competition has already begun. And just like railroads and vessels in the past, optical communications will surely be the infrastructure that pioneers the frontier of a new era.

(Writer: Junichiro Nakazawa)

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WARPSPACE Inc.

We are startup company started as a project in University of Tsukuba, 2011. We will provide the optical telecommunication service with LEO Sat operator by 2023.