The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has awarded a contract to BlueHalo to support the demonstration of on-orbit processing of satellite positioning and timing.

As part of the $11m contract, the company will provide a pair of optical laser communications proto-flight terminals and a ground station.

BlueHalo chief technology officer Vikram Manikonda said: “As a core area of technological focus at BlueHalo, our Laser Communications Systems division is rapidly expanding capabilities based on robust internal research and development programmes.

“This cutting-edge contract will allow us to apply the company’s extensive experience developing and fielding optical communications systems to continue advancing innovations in laser communications.”

The company will carry out the related work in Albuquerque, New Mexico, US. Work is expected to complete by February 2025.

The latest contract will support the demonstration and development of various key technologies.

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It includes space-to-ground links, positioning and timing accuracies over optical communication links, GEO-to-LEO optical uplinks and downlinks, and interoperability with multiple optical communications standards.

The Laser Communications Systems division of the company primarily focuses on the development of next-generation optical terminals and other key enabling solutions.

According to BlueHalo, the division specialises in high data rate communications, timing and ranging services, with a low probability of interception or detection (LPI/LPD) due to narrow beam widths.

BlueHalo sector president Dan Gillings said: “A demonstration like this leverages our previous successes in the field and builds on our expertise in optical jitter control and precision pointing to achieve technological breakthroughs.”

In 2020, the company received five contracts from AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate to support the Space Domain solutions development.