January 28, 2017

A Prototype Coarse Pointing Assembly for Laser Communication

SPIE Photonics West 2017

By: Eric D. Miller, Michael DeSpenza, Ilya Gavrilyuk, Graham Nelson, Brent Erickson, Britney Edwards, Ethan Davis, Tony Truscott


Laser communication systems promise orders-of-magnitude improvement in data throughput per unit SWaP (size, weight and power) compared to conventional RF systems. However, in order for lasercom to make sense economically as part of a worldwide connectivity solution, the cost per terminal still needs to be significantly reduced.

In this paper, we describe a coarse pointing mechanism that has been designed with an emphasis on simplicity, making use of conventional materials and commercial off-the-shelf components wherever possible. An overview of the design architecture and trades is presented, along with various results and practical lessons learned during prototype integration and test.