Japanese satellite laser communication start-up Warpspace is making its mark on the American market

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The company is developing an inter-satellite optical data relay service in medium Earth orbit called WarpHub InterSat

WASHINGTON — Warpspace, a Japanese space startup developing an inter-satellite laser communication system, is establishing an American presence to partner with American companies and compete for government and military contracts.

“Warpspace USA Inc. was recently incorporated in Delaware,” Chief Strategy Officer Hirokazu Mori said. SpaceNews.

The company is developing an inter-satellite optical data relay service in medium Earth orbit called WarpHub InterSat. Target customers are Earth observation satellite operators who need to quickly move large volumes of data from space to the ground.

Warpspace also provides the service to the US Department of Defense’s Space Development Agency. SDA is building a so-called transport layer constellation of hundreds of data relay satellites to support military communications.

Founded in 2016, Warpspace currently operates a test cube in low Earth orbit. In 2024, it plans to begin deploying a constellation of three satellites in medium Earth orbit that would receive and transmit data from customer satellites in low Earth orbit using optical communications. MEO satellites would send the data to ground stations initially using radio-frequency links and eventually moving to optical links when space-to-ground laser communication technology matures, Mori said.

All three satellites should be in orbit by 2025, he said. Once the constellation is operational, the company will begin offering data transport as a service.

As the number of satellites operating in low Earth orbit continues to grow, he said, “the demand for larger data sampling and downlink has also increased. However, the conventional communication infrastructure is not sufficient to meet the demand,” he said. The concept behind the WarpHub InterSat service is to allow LEO satellites to “continuously communicate with ground stations with a high-speed optical link in near real-time”.

Warpspace USA will begin operating this summer. “We look forward to strengthening our cooperation with US companies and agencies. One of the main purposes of opening a branch in Washington, DC is to begin to build a relationship with the US government. We are particularly interested in the work that the Space Development Agency is doing on slice 1 of the transport layer.

The company closed a Series A funding round in September, raising around $10 million. Mori said Warpspace is looking to close a Series B funding round this summer.

Mori noted that optical communications for space have been successfully deployed by national space agencies, but cost and technical maturity have prevented their widespread adoption. As the industry moves to higher production rates and the technology is proven, he said, laser communications in space will increasingly become the norm.

Warpspace announced in January that it had been selected by the Japanese space agency JAXA to conduct a study on the use of optical communications for lunar exploration activities, work that would support NASA’s Artemis program to bring humans back to Earth. moon.

“Through the realization and expansion of inter-satellite optical communication networks, we will contribute to the expansion of the safe and peaceful use of outer space through public-private and international cooperation,” said Warpspace CEO Satoru Tsunemachi.

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