JAXA & Sony Sign Agreement for Laser Link Communications on ISS

Small Exposed Experiment Platform (i-SEEP) with optical communications module (Credit: JAXA)

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — National Research and Development Agency Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (hereafter known as JAXA, President: Naoki Okumura), Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc. (hereafter known as Sony CSL, President and Chief Executive Officer: Hiroaki Kitano) and Sony Corporation (hereafter known as Sony: President and Chief Executive Officer: Kazuo Hirai) made a cooperative research agreement with respect to conducting the on-orbit demonstrations of laser communications system. This research to be executed in the Kibo module on the International Space Station (ISS) aims at establishing a communications system of mass data between spacecraft and that which connects Earth and Space.

Since 2016, JAXA’s Space Exploration Innovation Hub and Sony have cooperatively conducted fundamental studies of the laser communications, using the precision oriented optical disc technology.*1 Later in 2017, Sony CSL took over and has continued the fundamental research.

Sony CSL and the Innovation Hub have established the laser communications technology and have developed the flight model of the optical communications module. Preparation is underway to demonstrate the motion of the laser link technology in Kibo and to verify orbital performance in late Japanese fiscal 2018.

The demonstrations will be carried out at one of the ports located at the Kibo extravehicular platform. There, the optical communications module will be attached to the IVA-replaceable Small Exposed Experiment Platform (i-SEEP), a hardware adapter developed by JAXA.*2

*1 The studies are based on the agreement made in 2016: “Low-power Optical Modem for Long-distance communication”, the projects selected as “Open Innovation Hub for Expanding Humanosphere and the Domain of Human Activity through Solar System Frontier Development”. JAXA became one of the contractors to the Open Innovation Hub, the initiative by Japan Science and Technology Agency.

*2 The late Japanese fiscal 2018 orbital demonstrations are partially funded by a fee-based contract made between Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, JAXA and Sony CSL. The contract results from the parties’ effort initiated in late 2017 to facilitate Kibo. An experiment at the i-SEEP takes almost a year to prepare for, requiring less time.