Development of Omnidirectional Optical Terminals for Swarm Communications and Navigation

Jose E Velazco, Alexa C Aguilar, Andy R Klaib, Uriel S Escobar, Sean E Cornish, Joseph C Griffin

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JPL is developing a new omnidirectional optical terminal that will provide fast communications and accurate navigation for swarms of spacecraft. The omnidirectional optical communicator/navigator (OOCN) under development presents a truncated icosahedral geometry that contains arrays of miniature laser telescopes and optical detectors. The miniature optical telescopes are located at the center of each OOCN facet and allow for full sky coverage. The optical detectors, symmetrically deployed on each vertex of the OOCN body, have two purposes: to receive fast incoming communications signals and accurately determine the angle of arrival (AOA) of the incoming signal. The continuous AOA tracking performed by the OOCN mechanism makes it ideally suited for swarm navigation as well. In this paper, we provide a general description of the main OOCN features: 1) high data rate communications, 2) full sky coverage, and 3) ability to maintain multiple links simultaneously. The current OOCN prototype operates at a wavelength of 650 nm, and uses low-power single-mode laser diodes and fast silicon photodetectors. We present the latest experimental results of AOA and pointing testing obtained with this prototype in our optical laboratory. Lastly, we present examples of future missions that could be enabled by the OOCN.