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NASA Eager to Collaborate With Private Sector on Optical Communications Tech

Optical communications are an up-and-coming alternative to radio frequency-based comms that are attracting the attention of the biggest space companies and agencies. Among them: NASA and Elon Musk’s Starlink.

“NASA, alongside Starlink, Kuiper, and the Space Development Agency, is advancing optical communication technology, a leap for space and terrestrial telecoms,” NASA’s Greg Heckler told GovCon Wire in an exclusive comment.

Greg Heckler

Heckler is set to discuss the benefits of optical communication and share how NASA is intending to partner with industry to iterate and implement the technology at the Potomac Officers Club’s Space Summit on March 5. He will be in dialogue with the Defense Innovation Unit’s Steve “Bucky” Butow, his NASA colleague Peter Schemmel and Kepler Communications’ Robert ConradRegister here now to see the panel and gain access to extensive networking opportunities!

Through optical communications, information and data are transferred across enormous distances using light and lasers. The Space Communications and Navigation, or SCaN program, at NASA is working to construct on-ground and space-based optical transceivers to dispatch and intake information. Heckler is the director of the commercial communications services division within SCaN.

“Building on NASA’s optical communication successes, we’re enhancing mission capabilities through new partnerships and solicitations,” Butow commented, adding that at the Space Summit, “SCaN is eager to share its strategy, blending commercial innovation with government expertise for a transformative impact.”

Steve “Bucky” Butow

Butow, who is director of the space portfolio at DIU and is in charge of identifying and growing new commercial opportunities in the space technology sector, has spoken in praise of public-private partnerships, particularly with an international scope.

“Partnerships with the commercial sector provide a natural nexus for international collaboration,” he said.

He has also spoken specifically about a past effort by Starlink for the public good: its provision of communication kits to Ukraine during its invasion and sustained attacks by Russia. Butow said that this move “totally destroyed” Vladimir Putin’s attempts to delude the Ukrainian public through misinformation campaigns.

Come to the Potomac Officers Club’s 2024 Space Summit to hear Heckler, Butow, Schemmel and Kepler give insights into Starlink and other companies’ participation in optical communications technology development and how your company can compete to aid NASA in the endeavor. Register here!

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