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Optical Engineering • Open Access

Nanosatellite optical downlink experiment: design, simulation, and prototyping
Author(s): Emily Clements; Raichelle Aniceto; Derek Barnes; David Caplan; James Clark; Inigo del Portillo; Christian Haughwout; Maxim Khatsenko; Ryan Kingsbury; Myron Lee; Rachel Morgan; Jonathan C. Twichell; Kathleen Riesing; Hyosang Yoon; Caleb Ziegler; Kerri Cahoy

Paper Abstract

The nanosatellite optical downlink experiment (NODE) implements a free-space optical communications (lasercom) capability on a CubeSat platform that can support low earth orbit (LEO) to ground downlink rates>10  Mbps. A primary goal of NODE is to leverage commercially available technologies to provide a scalable and cost-effective alternative to radio-frequency-based communications. The NODE transmitter uses a 200-mW 1550-nm master-oscillator power-amplifier design using power-efficient M-ary pulse position modulation. To facilitate pointing the 0.12-deg downlink beam, NODE augments spacecraft body pointing with a microelectromechanical fast steering mirror (FSM) and uses an 850-nm uplink beacon to an onboard CCD camera. The 30-cm aperture ground telescope uses an infrared camera and FSM for tracking to an avalanche photodiode detector-based receiver. Here, we describe our approach to transition prototype transmitter and receiver designs to a full end-to-end CubeSat-scale system. This includes link budget refinement, drive electronics miniaturization, packaging reduction, improvements to pointing and attitude estimation, implementation of modulation, coding, and interleaving, and ground station receiver design. We capture trades and technology development needs and outline plans for integrated system ground testing.

Paper Details

Date Published: 13 September 2016
PDF: 18 pages
Opt. Eng. 55(11) 111610 doi: 10.1117/1.OE.55.11.111610
Published in: Optical Engineering Volume 55, Issue 11
Show Author Affiliations
Emily Clements, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Raichelle Aniceto, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Derek Barnes, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
David Caplan, MIT Lincoln Lab. (United States)
James Clark, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Inigo del Portillo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Christian Haughwout, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Maxim Khatsenko, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Ryan Kingsbury, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Myron Lee, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Rachel Morgan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Jonathan C. Twichell, MIT Lincoln Lab. (United States)
Kathleen Riesing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Hyosang Yoon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Caleb Ziegler, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
Kerri Cahoy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)


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