Spire Global and ESA Launch Nanosats with Optical Link Technology for Enhanced Security

by Liam O'Connor
optical link technology

Spire Global, in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), has successfully deployed a second pair of satellites aimed at establishing secure inter-satellite communication through light-based optical links. This achievement signifies a significant advancement in the field of satellite communication, offering enhanced efficiency and security.

Developed under an ESA Partnership Project in conjunction with Spire Global, a satellite manufacturer and operator based in Glasgow, UK, these satellites are part of Spire Global’s constellation, which provides global weather intelligence, monitors ship and plane movements, and detects spoofing and jamming activities. The insights gathered from these observations contribute to improved predictions concerning the impact of various patterns on economies, global security, business operations, and the environment.

The newly launched satellites utilize optical inter-satellite links to establish secure and near-instantaneous information exchange between them. These satellites, each about the size of a large box of cornflakes, leverage light-based communication akin to using a laser pointer to connect two satellites placed 5000 km apart, equivalent to the distance between Glasgow and New York.

During a brief contact window when the satellites have direct line of sight with each other across the Earth, they will demonstrate the ability to securely transmit over 1 GB of data between their terminals.

Spire Global employed an agile development approach in creating their optical inter-satellite link technology. They iteratively evolved the technology through successive spacecraft iterations, all of which were manufactured in-house.

This achievement follows the successful launch of a previous pair of satellites in June 2021, which served to develop fundamental capabilities required for optical inter-satellite links, including advanced spacecraft pointing and position control, laser beam operation, and optical receivers.

The development of these satellites took place within the Pioneer program, a collaborative effort between ESA, the UK Space Agency, and Spire Global, as part of ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) program. This marks the signing of the seventh Pioneer Partnership Project.

Jeroen Cappaert, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Spire Global, expressed his satisfaction, stating, “We are celebrating the culmination of more than three years of work in creating one of the most complex systems from both the hardware and mission perspectives. The use of optical links instead of traditional radio frequency links leads to higher resiliency to interference, higher security, and higher efficiency.”

Craig Brown, Director of Investment at the UK Space Agency, emphasized the significance of this accomplishment, remarking, “The successful launch of these two Glasgow-made satellites from Spire Global marks a milestone, not just for the company, but for how we look at inter-satellite communications and make these technologies more efficient.” He also highlighted the opportunity for the UK to excel in the commercial space industry while maintaining a commitment to environmental sustainability.

Javier Benedicto, acting Director of Connectivity and Secure Communications at ESA, praised the partnership projects and their contribution to enhancing the competitiveness of the European space industry. He expressed delight in collaborating with Spire Global and the UK Space Agency, aiming to foster innovation that enables the European space industry to thrive in global markets known for their high competitiveness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about optical link technology

What is the purpose of the launched satellites by Spire Global and ESA?

The purpose of the launched satellites is to demonstrate secure inter-satellite communication using light-based optical links and enable the transmission of high volumes of data over long distances.

How do the satellites achieve secure communication?

The satellites utilize optical inter-satellite links, which leverage light-based communication technology. This approach offers higher resiliency to interference, increased security, and improved efficiency compared to traditional radio frequency links.

What are the potential applications of Spire Global’s satellite constellation?

Spire Global’s constellation of satellites provides valuable data for global weather intelligence, monitoring ship and plane movements, and detecting spoofing and jamming activities. The insights gained from these observations have implications for economies, global security, business operations, and the environment.

How were the satellites developed?

The satellites were developed under a partnership project between Spire Global and the European Space Agency (ESA). Spire Global employed an agile development approach, evolving the technology through successive iterations of the spacecraft, all of which were manufactured in-house.

What is the significance of these satellites for the space industry?

These satellites represent a significant advancement in satellite communication technology, offering enhanced efficiency and security. They contribute to the growing trend of utilizing optical links as the backbone for data transmission in the space industry, ensuring improved performance and reliability.

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SkyWatcher99 June 19, 2023 - 6:32 pm

Spire Global & ESA did a gr8 job launchin’ these nanosats! Now we can have secure comm betwn satelites ovr long distances. Optical links rock!

AstroGeek42 June 20, 2023 - 2:58 am

Thumbs up 2 Spire Global & ESA! Dese satelites gonna revolutionize how we communicate in space. Optical links ftw!

StarGazer77 June 20, 2023 - 6:41 am

Can’t wait 2 c how these satelites improve weather intel, track ship & plane movemnts, & detect spoofing. Kudos 2 Spire Global & ESA!

SpaceExplorer5000 June 20, 2023 - 7:59 am

Finally, secure data transmishn in space! Spire Global & ESA nailed it with the optical link nanosats. Way 2 go!

SpaceLover23 June 20, 2023 - 11:06 am

wow, these satelites rly bringin security 2 da nex lvl! They use light-based optical links 4 secure comm & high-speed data transmishn. A big step 4 satelite tech!


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