Global coverage of internet access is essential for digitalization in society, becoming a disruptive technology in industry, education or political participation for example. Satellite communications is a complementary approach to the terrestrial fiber network, which can provide world-wide coverage with few satellites in geostationary orbit or with low-earth-orbit constellations. Optical wavelengths offer multiple THz of available spectrum that can be used to connect satellites to the ground network with high-throughput links, solving the radiofrequency bandwidth bottleneck, without regulations. Cloud covereage and atmospheric turbulence are the main challenge in guaranteeing the same availability as in terrestrial fiber-based systems. While the former can be addressed by site diversity, for the latter, other mitigation strategies are required. Adaptive optics is a common approach to correct for atmospheric phase distortions and ensure stable fiber coupling. However, this approach requires a relatively complex active setup and therefore a collaboration between DLR Institute of Communications and Navigation and Cailabs has been formed to investigate alternative passive solutions for low-complexity ground stations. Coupling into multimode fibers does not require adaptive optics due to the large fiber core, however the coupled signal is distributed into multiple fiber-modes and is therefore incompatible with standard telecommunications components. Cailabs Multi-Plane Light Conversion (MPLC) technology overcomes this issue, selectively demultiplexing the fibermodes into single-mode fibers. Here, DLR’s adaptive optics system and the MPLC technology in a turbulence-relevant environment for GEO communications are compared, investigating the advantages of the MPLC approach for compensating strong turbulence. This paper presents an overview of the measurement setup and analyzes the single-mode fibers outputs of the spatial demultiplexer and the measured phase-distortions from a wavefront sensor.
Broadband internet access has become a vertex for the future development of society and industry in the digital era. Geostationary orbit (GEO) satellite can provide global broadband coverage, becoming a complementary solution to optical fiber network. Low-earth-orbit (LEO) constellations have been proposed in the last years and they may become a reality soon, but still based on radiofrequency for the ground-to-satellite links. Optical technologies offer multiple THz of available spectrum, which can be used in the feeder link. The DLR’s Institute of Communications and Navigation has demonstrated Terabit-per-second throughput in relevant environment for GEO communications, in terms of the turbulent channel. In 2016 DLR set the world-record in freespace communications to 1.72 Tbit/s, and in 2017 to 13.16 Tbit/s. Two terminals, emulating the satellite and the ground station have been developed. Bi-directional communications link with single-mode-fiber coupling at both ends was demonstrated. Adaptive optics for the downlink and uplink (pre-distortion) improved the fiber-coupling in downlink and decreased signal fluctuations in uplink. A 80 Gbit/s QPSK system based on digital homodyne reception was also developed, demonstrating the use of coherent communications under strong turbulence conditions. These activities were performed in the frame of two internal DLR projects, THRUST and Global Connectivity Synergy project. Several measurement campaigns took place in the last years in a valley-to-mountain-top test-link. Turbulence has been monitored at both ends and the point-ahead-angle has been emulated by separating the downlink beacon from the receiving aperture. An overview of the system and the main results will be presented.