Will 2022 be the Dawn of the “Optical Inter-Satellite Link Services (OISL)”? The Trends of OISL seen from World Satellite Business Week

Warpspace Inc.
5 min readJan 28, 2022

Happy New Year.

The year-end and New Year holidays have passed, and it is already the end of January in no time.

Looking back on what happened in 2021, there was big news that the U.S space travel companies succeeded in human space flights one after another, and Mr.Yusaku Maezawa, the founder of ZOZO, stayed on the International Space Station (ISS) as a traveler. It was a year that could be called the first year of human space travel.

What kind of year will 2022 be?

Hirokazu Mori, CSO of WARPSPACE, who participated in space business conferences held around the world last year, thinks it will probably be the “dawn of optical inter-satellite Link services (OISL)” for business.

What is “Summit on Earth Observation Business” Where Top Executives Gather?

Mori especially felt the excitement of the optical communication business at the “Summit on Earth Observation Business” (SEOB) held in Paris in December 2021.

Summit on Earth Observation Business venue

This is one of the two conferences that make up the annual World Satellite Business Week event held by Euroconsult, space sector research and consulting firm. It is known as a place where top executives of satellite-related businesses from every country gather to talk about trends related to the earth observation business.

SEOB mainly consists of keynotes and panel sessions, but there are booths of sponsor companies at the venue.

Sponsor company’s booth exhibition (credit: Euroconsult)

It is said that most of the exhibitions are ran by major companies such as Boeing, Airbus, and Lockheed Martin, especially by French companies, but this time, the German venture company Mynaric, which is developing optical communication terminals listed on NASDAQ at the end of last year, was exhibiting. In addition, Microsoft, which has entered the satellite data business, is exhibiting an Azure Space booth, and Mori says that it can be seen that it is boosting toward full-scale commercialization.

Optical Communication Session Debuts

Starting this year, there were sessions focusing on OISL. Along with 5G and satellite constellation, the fact that we were able to have a specialized session is probably because OISL is attracting attention not as research on science and technology but as an important technology in the satellite business.

The session, being entitled, “Optical Communication: Open For Business?” With Mynaric CEO Mr.Bulent Altan, Spacelink CEO Mr.David Bettinger, and Optical Communication Equipment Development and Manufacturing and Optical Communication Business Honeywell, BridgeComm, and Tesat CEOs and senior directors took the stage.

In addition, Mynaric has been awarded the “Pioneer Space Business Award of the Year”, the award given to the company that the organizer Euroconsult recognizes active that year. And Capella Space, an operator of a constellation of small SAR satellites has been awarded the “Newcomer Information Business Award of the Year”.

Awards for Mynaric (credit: Euroconsult)
Awards for Capella Space (credit: Euroconsult)

Capella Space announced in November 2021 that Mynaric’s optical communication terminal will be installed on their satellite. The satellite will be launched in 2022 this year and in-orbit demonstrations will be conducted.

Since the SAR satellite has a large data capacity, it has excellent compatibility with optical communication, which enables large-capacity communication. If one company takes it in, competitors will also consider utilizing the new technology.

Keyword is “Smaller and Lighter”

SAR satellite operators are not the only ones who try to take OISL technology in. Optical satellite operators that can take more images than SAR satellites should be considering the utilization of optical technology as well.

However, as satellites are becoming smaller, it is difficult to secure space for optical communication terminals. As the first movement of OISL utilization, SAR satellite operators, who have relatively large-scale satellites.

On the other hand, WARPSPACE is developing a compact and lightweight terminal for optical communication, mainly targeting microsatellite operators that compose optical earth observation constellations of 3U to 12U and at most 100 kg.

Currently, in order to mount an optical communication terminal on a satellite, it is necessary to secure space and reduce the weight of other subsystems. But as if a GNSS receiver that can acquire PNT satellite data such as GPS is installed in a smartphone, Mori says that it would be ideal to develop a smaller and lighter terminal that is on a satellite as a matter of course.

Looking at other industries such as robots, headphones, home appliances, and barber home appliances, miniaturization and weight reduction of hardware is a Japanese specialty. Japan may be able to demonstrate its presence in the optical communication business by working on service development while grasping the needs of users.

WARPSPACE is the only company in Japan focusing on OISL services and is trying to take the lead in reducing the size and weight of terminals.

Image of a small relay satellite in “WarpHub InterSat”

From this year, each company is moving to demonstrate low earth orbit-ground optical communication technology, but with the addition of the low earth orbit-medium earth orbit demonstration that WARPSPACE will carry out from 2023. The reality is that the ground and the earth’s low orbit, medium earth orbit, and geostationary orbit are all seamlessly connected by optical communication will be realized with confidence by 2025.

By utilizing these technologies, optical communication will be available between the Moon and the Earth, which will contribute to the Artemis plan aimed at human lunar exploration.

Stay tuned for the dawn of the spread of OISL services, which will significantly change space development in the future!

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Warpspace Inc.

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