Press Release


"Toward the Era of Optical Communication in Space"
Success of the Optical Inter-orbit Communication Experiment between the Optical Inter-orbit Communications Engineering Test Satellite "Kirari" (OICETS) and the Advanced Relay and Technology Mission (ARTEMIS)

December 9, 2005 (JST)

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

On December 9, 2005 (Japan Standard Time, JST), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) succeeded in a bidirectional optical inter-orbit communication experiment using a laser beam between the Optical Inter-orbit Communications Engineering Test Satellite "Kirari" (OICETS) and the Advanced Relay and Technology Mission (ARTEMIS) of the ESA.

This is the first bidirectional optical inter-orbit communication in the world.

The success of this experiment has made it possible for us to acquire enabling technology mainly for on-orbit laser beam acquisition and tracking technology. Also it enables us to collect data for improving transmission speed and volume, and for making onboard communication equipment smaller and lighter, which are essential for a future data relay satellite. In addition, we were able to obtain technology for future international mutual operations through international cooperation with ESA.

Optical inter-orbit communication is a method for satellites that are moving several kilometers per second in respective orbits to transmit and receive laser beams. The distance between them can be as far as about 40,000 kilometers. This inter-orbit communication using laser beams is a highly advanced technology that can be described like "hitting the eye of a needle placed on top of the Mt. Fuji from Tokyo Station." This communication method has a lot of advantages. For example, communication can be more stable because, unlike radio waves, laser beams do not cause interference. Also, onboard equipment can be smaller and lighter, but transmission speed is higher, and large volume data can be smoothly exchanged.

Kirari's optical inter-orbit communication technology is expected to be an essential technology for supporting various future space activities including global data acquisition by an earth observation satellite as a communication method between a low earth orbit satellite and a data relay satellite in geostationary orbit. We will continue to verify enabling technologies and to carry out functional verification in the space environment.

We would like to express our appreciation to the ESA, which operates the ARTEMIS, for its cooperation with the experiment.

[ Kirari (OICETS) Video ] Streaming format (Windows Media : 1Mbps) (Sorry, Japanese only)

For inquiries:
JAXA Public Affairs Department
Tel: +81-3-6266-6413 to 7, Fax: +81-3-6266-6910