Boeing has demonstrated the ability of the Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT) to link from one satellite to another using a laser beam in a simulated space environment.

The demonstration, performed in cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratories (MIT/LL), marked the third of four planned laser communication milestone demonstrations.

Boeing says TSAT is designed to provide the secure, long haul, high capacity backbone and full Internet-like functionality for US forces to ensure that they have information superiority in any situation throughout the world.

MIT/LL tested the Boeing hardware for performance and compatibility with the US government's new Lasercom Interoperability Standard, as well as the performance readiness of Boeing's TSAT optical modems. MIT/LL rated the free-space optical link operation at speeds of up to 40 gigabits per second, which enables the broadcast of 3,000 simultaneous high-definition TV channels, or about 15,000 regular TV channels, in each direction.

"We are laying the groundwork for our customer's vision of providing secure, high capacity network connectivity between US forces worldwide, whether fixed, deployed or mobile, and their command, intelligence and support functions back home," said John Peterson, Boeing TSAT Space Segment program director. "In these milestone demonstrations, we showed the Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) user community that it can have a 10 to 40 gigabit per second TSAT backbone. In the decades ahead, laser communications will be a key technology and an enabler for missions of vital importance to US security and a major element of the US Department of Defense's vision for TSAT."

Equally critical to the success of Lasercom on TSAT is the Pointing, Acquisition and Tracking (PAT) subsystem, which enables the effective use of Lasercom's beam, providing advantages in transmitted power requirements. The PAT subsystem uses Ball Aerospace Technology Corporation's robust algorithms and beam control technology. The demonstration verified Ball's design approach and technology to be consistent with the Lasercom Interoperability Standard, which fulfils another risk reduction objective for TSAT.

"The demonstration's success was the result of excellent teamwork by the entire MILSATCOM Joint Program Office-led government and industry team," said Peterson. "Establishing this level of performance and maturity in this phase of the program represents a significant risk reduction for the follow-on acquisition and operations phase. It is a testament to the US Air Force's new satellite acquisition strategy and the engineering we have incorporated in the Lasercom terminal."

The MILSATCOM Joint Program Office and the National Reconnaissance Office co-sponsored the Lasercom demonstration. The Boeing team is working under a $514 million US Air Force contract for the risk reduction and system definition phase of the TSAT Space Segment program. The Air Force plans to select a TSAT Space Segment contractor in December 2007.