High-sensitivity inter-satellite optical communications using chip-scale LED and single photon detector hardware

Alexander D. Griffiths, Johannes Herrnsdorf, Robert K. Henderson, Michael J. Strain, Martin D. Dawson

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Small satellites have challenging size weight and power requirements for communications modules, which we address here by using chip-scale light-emitting diode (LED) transmitters and single-photon avalanche diode receivers. Data rates of 100 Mb/s have been demonstrated at a sensitivity of -55.2 dBm, and simulations with supporting experimental work indicate ranges in excess of 1 km are feasible with a directional gain of up to 52 dBi and comparatively modest pointing requirements. A 750 m, 20 Mb/s link using a single micro-LED has been demonstrated experimentally. The low electrical power requirements and compact, semiconductor nature of these devices offer high data rate, high sensitivity communications for small satellite platforms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10749-10768
Number of pages20
JournalOptics Express
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2021


  • small satellites
  • chip-scale light-emitting diode (LED)
  • high-sensitivity
  • inter-satellite
  • optical communications
  • single photon detector

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