CTA Telescopes as Deep-Space Lasercom Ground Receivers


The amount of scientific information to be transmitted from deep-space probes is very limited thanks to radio-frequency (RF) communications constraints. Free-house optical communication will alleviate this bottleneck, increasing data rate while reducing weight, mass, and power of communication onboard equipment. Nevertheless, optimizing the facility delivery from the spacecraft to Earth is required. In RF communications, the strategy has been to extend the aperture of ground terminals. Free-house optical communications will also follow it, as they share the limitation of low power received on Earth. As the value of huge telescopes increases exponentially with aperture, new concepts are needed to maximize the aperture-to-cost ratio. This paper explores the feasibility of using the telescopes of the longer term Cherenkov Telescope Array as optical communication ground stations. Ground-based gamma-ray astronomy has the same power limitation; hence, Cherenkov telescopes are designed to maximize the receiver's aperture with minimum price and some relaxed needs. Both the essential issues of the reutilization and attainable adaptations of the telescopes to optimize them for communications, furthermore telescope simulations and numerical computations of many link budgets applied to worst-case situations, are mentioned, concluding that the proposal is technically possible and would bring necessary price reductions and performance improvements compared with current styles for deep-house optical ground stations.

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