I meant to include the more recent amateur satellites such as cubesats, and also amateur radio satellites - where the heritage of amateur satellite building (mostly) has its roots.

Have amateur satellites ever experimented with optical communications - basic studies or more?

  • $\begingroup$ Using optical communication in a cubesat with no attitude control would be difficult. There are omnidirectional antennas, but no true omnidirectional optical transmitters and receivers. Each side of the qube should be equipped with a transmitter and receiver with an angle of beam greater than 90 °. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Oct 13 '16 at 16:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe you are right. While there are plenty of 3U cubesats with reasonable attitude control - more than a hundred perhaps, I'm asking here about experiments, not internet service providers. And there's this one blinking morse code: directory.eoportal.org/web/eoportal/satellite-missions/f/… $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 13 '16 at 16:30

There was one that I can find, a beacon that used infrared light to communicate at a rate or 400 bits/second, on AO-40, which was a technology demonstration mission by AMSAT.

Wikipedia doesn't include any amateur missions.

It is proposed to use laser based communication for satellites beyond Earth's orbit, such as the Moon or Mars. I can't find any reference of them being used currently, however.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Interesting video, or audio at least. There's more info in this comment $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 13 '16 at 13:33

Not really amateur, but CubeSats for sure.

AeroCube 7 / OCSD would have already tested it, but had attitude control problems. Should relaunch in a few months. One can find plenty of detailed publications too.

ArgoMoon will be one of the next. Testing it from beyond Moon orbit, but not much is known yet.

Edit 2018-12-08: AeroCube-7B successfully demonstrated laser communications from a CubeSat in 2018. More details from Small Sat 2018 presentation and official press release.

Radix from Analytical Space was launched in the summer of 2018 and also includes optical communications module. Radix-2 is planned for January 2019 based on this Constellations podcast.

There are over 10 CubeSats with laser transmitter payloads in development now. Several of them will launch in 2019 (Golbriak Space module on FSSCat A/B, Tesat-Spacecom module on OSIRIS etc).

  • $\begingroup$ Wow! OK I'll take a look at them today - thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 18 '16 at 2:26
  • $\begingroup$ It seems AeroCubes have been launched now? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 5 '18 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ My previous post has been updated to include recent developments. $\endgroup$ – ErikK Dec 8 '18 at 21:13

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