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Sony Establishes Space Comms Business

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New company will focus on connecting micro satellites in low earth orbit via laser links

Sony has formed a new company, Sony Space Communications Corporation, to conduct space optical communications.

"Currently there are approximately 12,000 satellites in space, and the number is expected to increase in the future. The amount of data used in orbit is also increasing year by year, but the amount of available radio waves is limited," said Kyohei Iwamoto, president, Sony Space Communications Corporation.

"Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites need to communicate with the ground, so a large number of communications facilities are required for real-time communications, which is problematic because these satellites must pass directly over a ground station to communicate with it. Additionally, the need for frequency licenses for radio waves and the requirement for lower power consumption of communication equipment needed by smaller satellites, like micro satellites, are also issues to be addressed."

To solve these problems, SSC plans to develop small optical communications devices to provide related services to connect micro satellites in LEO via laser beams. It says it will apply the optical disc technology it has developed for CD players and other products.

Sony has already worked with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on space comms projects. In 2020, the SOLISS (Small Optical Link for International Space Station) was installed in the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo of the International Space Station (ISS). It established a bidirectional laser communications link with a space optical communication ground station of the Japanese National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), and successfully transmitted high-definition image data via Ethernet protocols. This experiment used Sony Computer Science Lab's Forward Error Correction (FEC) - a laser-reading technique derived from Sony's Blu-ray optical disk technology. (Blu-ray technology uses a GaInN-based blue-violet laser emitting at a wavelength of 405nm).

In 2021, the SOLISS experimental device successfully established optical downlinks from space to a commercial optical ground station of Kongsberg Satellite Services in Greece. In 2022, in collaboration with JAXA, an experiment on complete data file transfer in a simulated error-prone communications environment, which will be the technological basis for Internet services through stratospheric and low-Earth orbit optical communications, was successfully conducted.

By using optical communications, SSC aims to realise high-speed communications with small devices, which are physically difficult to achieve with conventional radio communications because conventional communications require large antenna and high power output.

In addition, by constructing an optical communications network not only between satellites and the ground, but also between satellites in orbit, SSC aims to enable real-time communications from anywhere on the ground to any satellite in space.

By providing easy-to-use inter-satellite communications capabilities, SSC aims to increase the amount of communications in space and realise an Internet communications network covering the earth, space, and applications such as real-time services.

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