Status Report

A Starshot Communication Downlink

By SpaceRef Editor
May 20, 2020
Filed under , ,

Kevin L. G. Parkin

Breakthrough Starshot is an initiative to propel a sailcraft to Alpha Centauri within the next generation. As the sailcraft transits Alpha Centauri at 0.2 c, it looks for signs of life by imaging planets and gathering other scientific data. After the transit, the 4.1-meter diameter sailcraft downlinks its data to an Earth-based receiver. The present work estimates the raw data rate of a 1.02 {\mu}m, 100 Watt laser that is received at 1.25 {\mu}m by a 30-meter telescope. The telescope receives 288 signal photons per second (-133 dBm) from the sailcraft after accounting for optical gains (+296 dBi), conventional losses (-476 dB), relativistic effects (-3.5 dB), and link margin (-3.0 dB). For this photon-starved Poisson channel with 0.1 nm equivalent noise bandwidth, 90% detector quantum efficiency, 1024-ary PPM modulation, and 10^-3 raw bit error rate, the raw data rate is 260 bit/s (hard-decision) to 1.5 kbit/s (ideal) raw data rate, which is 8-50 Gbit/year. This rate is slowed by noise, especially starlight from Alpha Centauri A scattered into the detector by the atmosphere and receiver optics as sailcraft nears the star. Because this is a flyby mission (the sailcraft does not stop in the Centauri system), the proper motion of Alpha Centauri relative to Earth carries it away from the sailcraft after transit, and the noise subsides over days to weeks. The downlink can resume as soon as a day after transit, starting at 7-22 bit/s and reaching nearly full speed after 4 months. By using a coronagraph on the receiving telescope, full-rate downlink speed could be reached much sooner.

Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)

Cite as: arXiv:2005.08940 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:2005.08940v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)

Submission history

From: Kevin Parkin 

[v1] Fri, 15 May 2020 18:57:20 UTC (1,668 KB)

SpaceRef staff editor.