SpaceX’s New Entry into the Optical Communication Terminal Market! Can It Compete with SDA-Compliant Terminals? Warpspace CSO Talks About SATELLITE 2024 Part 2

Warpspace Inc.
3 min readApr 3, 2024

SATELLITE 2024, one of the world’s largest satellite industry conferences, was held March 18–21, 2024, in Washington, D.C. SATELLITE Conference, organized by Via Satellite, a satellite-related information media company, has been in existence for over 40 years since 1981. It is one of the top three space conferences in the U.S., along with the Space Symposium held every April and the Smallsat Conference held every August, This year’s speakers included Diane Howard, Director of Commercial Space Policy at the White House National Space Council, and Jessica Rosenworcel, Chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Attribution of attendees. ©️SATELLITE 2024

With the attention of operators around the world focused on this topic, several significant announcements were made at SATELLITE 2024. Warpspace CSO, Hirokazu Mori also participated in this event and took the stage for a panel discussion, discussing the importance, benefits, and challenges of inter-satellite and satellite-to-ground optical communications. This article focuses on a few of the news items presented at the conference, topics that were of particular interest to Mori,

1.SpaceX’s Starship Successfully Tested
2.SpaceX Begins Sales of Optical Communication Terminals
3. Direct Cell-Satellite Connection

For a report on SATELLITE 2023, which Mori attended last year, please click here.

The middle part of the report details “SpaceX begins selling optical communication terminals.
(the first article is here and the last article is here.)

The top-stood-out company of SATELLITE 2024 was SpaceX. In addition to the successful third test flight of the Starship, which is also introduced in the first part of this report, SpaceX announced a plan(*1) to sell the laser communication system developed for the Starlink satellite to other satellite manufacturers. Here, too, is SpaceX’s President and COO, Gwynne Shotwell, at a panel discussion,

These terminals have already been demonstrated on the Starlink satellite, and the 3,000 most recently launched satellites have three terminals per flight.

(*1 [AVIATION WEEKLY]) SpaceX To Sell Starlink-Derived Laser Comms To Other Sat Providers)

Mori, on the other hand, said,

Of course, Warpspace, which plans to launch optical communication satellites into MEO and develop satellite network relay services, could be also a potential partner.

SpaceX is the latest player to join the ranks of optical communication terminal suppliers, which include Germany’s Mynaric, which manufactures optical communication terminals for small satellites, and Germany’s TESAT, which offers communication terminals for both large and small satellites.

Of note here are the standards for optical communication terminals. In the panel discussion on optical communications at SATELLITE 2024, “The Rise of Optical Ground Segment for Laser Communications,” in which Mori also participated, it was noted that more than 40 TESAT terminals have been delivered to the Space Development Agency (SDA).

The SDA is aiming to use a constellation of large military satellites to transmit information to the ground and is developing a “Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture” (PWSA)”. and has invested a large amount of money in laser optical communication technology in space, which is a key technology in the PWSA.

The SDA standard, which is being developed through the SDA’s massive investment, is expected to become the de facto standard for laser optical communications in space. However, the standard for SpaceX’s optical communication terminal is different from the SDA-compliant one.

It is unclear whether SpaceX intends to make its optical communication terminals compatible with the SDA standard or not and compete for market share. However, SpaceX’s new entry into the market is creating a different trend in the optical communication terminal market.

(Author: Junichiro Nakazawa)



Warpspace Inc.

Warpspace develops “WarpHub InterSat”, an optical inter-satellite data relay service. We will realize this service for LEO Sat operators by 2025.