• Dr. Suzana Sburlan (JPL) and Dr. Michael Kueppers (European Space Agency) - "Introduction to Optical Communication for Satellites"
  • Dr. Bryan Robinson (MIT Lincoln Laboratory) - "Optical Communication Flight Systems"
  • Dr. Morio Toyoshima (NICT) - "NICT's Optical Communication Projects and Ground Station Development"
  • Prof. Harlan Spence (Univ. of New Hampshire) and Dr. Renny Fields (The Aerospace Corporation) - "Optical Communication for SmallSats and CubeSats"


Communication is an essential capability all spacecraft require for scientific exploration of space. Whether in Earth orbit or distant regions of our solar system, a two-way connection between ground stations and flight missions enables commanding, navigation, and transmission of telemetry and scientific data. For decades, NASA has relied on a mature network infrastructure based on radio frequency (RF) technology. Now, a new approach using laser light is being developed for its potential to significantly increase the speed of communication allowing much more data to be returned from our observations of Earth and other planets.

This short course will explain the key principles behind optical communication, and provide a historical review of the achievements of NASA, the European Space Agency, and Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communication Technology to demonstrate its functionality on satellites. The advantages that communications with lasers can provide to future space missions will be discussed, as well as the outstanding challenges and risks that must be addressed in order to realize this goal. This course is open to JPL and Caltech staff, faculty, and students, and will be presented by a diverse group of scientists, engineers, and professors with experience in the field.

Short Course Presentations

Renny Fields
The Aerospace Corporation
Small Sat Lasercom
(1.9 MB .pdf)

Michael Küeppers
European Space Agency

Suzana Sburlan

Introduction to Optical Communications for Satellites
(1.7 MB .pdf)

Introduction to Optical Communication for Satellites
(939 KB .pdf)

Bryan Robinson

Optical Communication Flight Systems
(63.45 MB .pdf)
Harlan Spence
University of New Hampshire
Optical Communications for SmallSats and CubeSats or "Everything you always wanted to know about Small Enabling eXperiments"
(3.4 MB .pdf)
Morio Toyoshima
National Institute of Information and Communications Technology
NICT's optical communication projects and ground station development
(3.34 MB .pdf)