Free space optical communication has emerged in recent years as an attractive alternative to the conventional Radio Frequency (RF) approach. This emergence is due to the increasing maturity of lasers and compact optical systems that enable exploitation of the inherent advantages of the much shorter wavelengths characteristic of optical and near-infrared carriers.

Inherent advantages of optical communications:

  • Large bandwidth
  • Low probability of intercept
  • Immunity from interference or jamming
  • Frequency allocation relief
  • Smaller, lighter payloads

For a conventional optical link, a good to high quality telescope that provides relatively accurate pointing and tracking capability and a robust laser with sufficient power, temperature stabilization, and requisite electronics are needed in addition to the usual modulation/demodulation and control and acquisition instrumentation and software.