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SSC Wins New ESA Deal for Nodes Optical Communications Project

By Mark Holmes | May 16, 2023
Photo: NASA image of Earth taken from the International Space Station

Photo: NASA image of Earth taken from the International Space Station

Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) has won a new 2.26 million euros ($2.46 million) contract from the European Space Agency (ESA), the company announced May 15. This contract is for the second phase of the optical communication project NODES. The contract will support the implementation, test and demonstration of an optical network, to be carried out during 2023-2025, including the commissioning of a second optical ground station in the network.

The NODES project (Network of Optical stations for Data transfer to Earth from Space) is set to develop a direct-to-Earth data reception service based on free-space optical communication. The activity was initiated in 2022 and since then has passed two significant milestones. The System Requirements Review was achieved in October 2022, and the Preliminary Design Review was successfully completed at the end of March 2023. The first optical ground station of NODES will be delivered by Cailabs and installed at the SSC site in Western Australia (WASC) later this year.

The contract is under ESA’s ARTES Scylight program. ScyLight is an ESA strategic program line dedicated to optical communications, photonics and quantum communication and sits within ESA’s ARTES 4.0, the agency’s main program for technology developments in the field of satellite communications.

“Free-space laser communication is a promising future technology which aims to solve the data transfer limitations from space to ground in a secure and power-efficient way. We are delighted and grateful for ESA’s continued support and quality assurance towards a realization of this capability through the NODES project,” Hanna Sundberg, SSC lead system architect optical communications and NODES project manager  said in a statement.