Satellite Laser Communications

Course Length:



This course will provide an introduction and overview of laser communication principles and technologies for unguided, free-space beam propagation. Special emphasis is placed on highlighting the differences, as well as similarities to RF communications and other laser systems, and design issues and options relevant to future laser communication terminals.

What you will learn:

This course will provide you the knowledge and ability to perform basic satellite laser communication analysis, identify tradeoffs, interact meaningfully with colleagues, evaluate systems, and understand the literature.

  • How is a laser-communication system superior to conventional technology?
  • How link performance is analyzed.
  • What are the options for acquisition, tracking and beam pointing?
  • What are the options for laser transmitters, receivers and optical systems.
  • What are the atmospheric effects on the beam and how to counter them.
  • What are the typical characteristics of laser communication system hardware?
  • How to calculate mass, power and cost of flight.

Who should attend:

Engineers, scientists, managers, or professionals who desire greater technical depth, or RF communication engineers who need to assess this competing technology.

Course Outline:

  1. Introduction. Brief historical background, RF/Optical comparison; basic Block diagrams; and applications overview.
  2. Link Analysis. Parameters influencing the link; frequency dependence of noise; link performance comparison to RF; and beam profiles.
  3. Laser Transmitter. Laser sources; semiconductor lasers; fiber amplifiers; amplitude modulation; phase modulation; noise figure; nonlinear effects; and coherent transmitters.
  4. Modulation & Error Correction Encoding. PPM; OOK and binary codes; and forward error correction.
  5. Acquisition, Tracking and Pointing. Requirements; acquisition scenarios; acquisition; point-ahead angles, pointing error budget; host platform vibration environment; inertial stabilization: trackers; passive/active isolation; gimbaled transceiver; and fast steering mirrors.
  6. Opto-Mechanical Assembly. Transmit telescope; receive telescope; shared transmit/receive telescope; thermo-Optical- Mechanical stability.
  7. Atmospheric Effects. Attenuation, beam wander; turbulence/scintillation; signal fades; beam spread; turbid; and mitigation techniques.
  8. Detectors and Detections. Discussion of available photo-detectors noise figure; amplification; background radiation/ filtering; and mitigation techniques. Poisson photon counting; channel capacity; modulation schemes; detection statistics; and SNR / Bit error probability. Advantages / complexities of coherent detection; optical mixing; SNR, heterodyne and homodyne; laser linewidth.
  9. Crosslinks and Networking. LEO-GEO & GEO-GEO; orbital clusters; and future/advanced.
  10. Flight Qualification. Radiation environment; environmental testing; and test procedure.
  11. Eye Safety. Regulations; classifications; wavelength dependence, and CDRH notices.
  12. Cost Estimation. Methodology, models; and examples.
  13. Terrestrial Optical Communications. Communications systems developed for terrestrial links.


REGISTRATION:  There is no obligation or payment required to enter the Registration for an actively scheduled course.   We understand that you may need approvals but please register as early as possible or contact us so we know of your interest in this course offering.

SCHEDULING:  If this course is not on the current schedule of open enrollment courses and you are interested in attending this or another course as an open enrollment, please contact us at (410)956-8805 or Please indicate the course name, number of students who wish to participate. and a preferred time frame. ATI typically schedules open enrollment courses with a 3-5 month lead-time.   To express your interest in an open enrollment course not on our current schedule, please email us at

For on-site pricing, you can use the request an on-site quote form, call us at (410)956-8805, or email us at


  • Dr. Hamid Hemmati, Ph.D. has just joined Facebook Inc. as Director of Engineering for Telecom Infrastructure. Until May 2014 he was with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Institute of Technology where as Principal member of staff and the Supervisor of the Optical Communications Group. Prior to joining JPL in 1986, he was a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and at NIST (Boulder, CO). Dr. Hemmati has published over 200 journal and conference papers, nine patents granted and two pending. He is the editor and author of two books: “Deep Space Optical Communications” and “Near-Earth Laser Communications” and author of five other book chapters. In 2011 he received NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal. He has also received 3 NASA Space Act Board Awards, and 36 NASA certificates of appreciation. He is a Fellow member of OSA (Optical Society of America) and the SPIE (Society of Optical Engineers). Dr. Hemmati’s current research interests are in developing laser communications technologies and low complexity, compact flight electro-optical systems for both inter-planetary and satellite communications and science. Research activities include: managing the development of a flight lasercom terminal for planetary applications, called DOT (Deep-space Optical Terminals), electro-optical systems engineering, solid- state lasers (particularly pulsed fiber lasers), flight qualification of optical and electro- optical systems and components; low-cost multi-meter diameter optical ground receiver telescopes; active and adaptive optics; and laser beam acquisition, tracking and pointing.

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