GA-ASI performs ground tests with airborne laser communication system

21 February 2020 (Last Updated February 21st, 2020 12:56)

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA‑ASI) in partnership with Tesat-Spacecom (TESAT) has conducted ground tests with the Airborne Laser Communication System (ALCoS).

GA-ASI performs ground tests with airborne laser communication system
GA-ASI ground tests its space laser communication system with TESAT. Credit: Lt Col Leslie Pratt.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA‑ASI) in partnership with Tesat-Spacecom (TESAT) has conducted ground tests with the Airborne Laser Communication System (ALCoS).

The development of the space laser communication system took five years using internal funds for low probability of intercept (LPI), low probability of detect (LPD) communications link.

The system is intended to support the secure transfer of data between GA-ASI-produced MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) and satellites.

Tests were conducted using TESAT’s GEO Laser Communication Terminal (LCT), the LCT 135.

During testing, the company demonstrated establishing a link between its ALCoS from an optical observatory located on Tenerife in the Canary Islands with an Alphasat satellite in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO).

The link was closed with TESAT’s LCT 135 terminal on board the GEO satellite.

This demonstration showcased compatibility of an air-to-space laser communication system with size, weight and power (SWAP) with a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) RPA.

The communication system was successful in acquisition and tracking.

GA-ASI CEO Linden Blue said: “This test was a critical step towards enabling our aircraft with a high-bandwidth communication system that cannot be jammed or detected by an adversary.

“ALCoS allows a new generation of high-performance sensors by breaking the data bottleneck of current RF SATCOM technology.”

According to GA-ASI, ALCoS hold the capability to carry data 300 times more than conventional RF SATCOM systems.

It also has the capacity to function as a gateway to the Joint Aerial Network for forward-deployed forces.

In November last year, GA-ASI scheduled the demonstration of its maritime surveillance capabilities of its MQ-9 Guardian remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). The demonstration was conducted for European nations.