Press Release

Northrop Grumman Selected by Air Force to Demonstrate Air-to-Space Laser Communication Technology

By SpaceRef Editor
August 19, 2004
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Northrop Grumman
Corporation has been selected by the U.S. Air
Force to design, build and demonstrate a prototype optical
aperture system that will enable laser communications between
aircraft and space-based platforms.

The Airborne Lasercom Terminal – Optical Aperture technology
demonstration will mature technology prior to a separately
awarded terminal-development effort. The future laser communications
terminal will provide more intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance data to the user at much higher speeds than
currently achievable with radio-frequency systems.

“Northrop Grumman’s design approach will provide greater
communication capability between existing military platforms
and space assets,” said Taylor W. Lawrence, vice president
and general manager of the company’s Systems Development
and Technology Division. “In addition to increasing the
amount of bandwidth over current radio-frequency systems,
this technology has the potential to reduce size, weight
and power requirements and do so at a lower cost.

“As the industry continues to move toward more interoperability
and network-centric systems, laser applications provide
a key technology for airborne reconnaissance missions using
a layered architecture involving satellites, manned and
unmanned aircraft, aerostatic vehicles, and portable/fixed
ground terminals,” Lawrence added. “This aperture system
is a critical link between airborne lasercom terminal requirements
and a number of truly transformational communications system

Northrop Grumman is one of four prime contractors chosen
to mature and demonstrate aperture technologies and will
lead the systems engineering and integration effort for
their team.

Other teammates include OPTRA Inc., of Topsfield, Mass.,
which will provide the coarse-beam steering subsystem, and
AOptix Technologies Inc., of Campbell, Calif., which will
provide the fine-beam steering subsystem.

Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems sector will serve
as the prime contractor. The sector is headquartered in
Baltimore and is a world leader in the design, development,
and manufacture of defense and commercial electronics systems,
including airborne radar systems, navigation systems, electronic
warfare systems, precision weapons, airspace management
systems, air defense systems, communications systems, space
systems, marine systems, oceanic and naval systems, government
systems, and logistic services.

SpaceRef staff editor.