Optical Communication Terminals: The Future of SatCom

With the fast and aggressive build out of LEO constellations orbiting Earth, comes the pervasive need for free-space Optical Communications Terminals (OCT) that allow space-to-space, space-to-air, and space-to-ground connections. Point-to-point use of highly collimated light is critical to the utility of mesh networks connecting each spacecraft with each other and the ultimate users on the ground.

Satellites use gimbal mechanisms for the pointing and positioning portion of the Optical Communications Terminal (OCT), commonly referred to as the Coarse Pointing Assembly. Within the Coarse Pointing Assembly is a device called a fast-steering mirror that acts as the Fine Pointing Assembly that ensures a reliable optical connection.

Multi-axial gimbals, like those used in Coarse and Fine Pointing Assembly systems can leverage the benefits of high performance cogless Ring Motors to directly drive movement and maintain position. Frameless motor kits offer the further ability to integrate the actuation function as part of optimized systems, offering Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) savings, which are highly desirable in spacecraft applications.

ThinGap’s LS Series of slotless motor kits is an industry leader for gimbal applications requiring high performance and efficiency, decisive move-and-hold positioning, and smooth motion for long-range target lock. LS motors have been widely used in OCT systems and even NASA’s PACE Mission’s optical scanner payload.

Using its proprietary design, thin wire-wrapped stators, and optimized permanent-magnet rotors, ThinGap provides motors with specifications that can match the torque output of slotted motors while avoiding the cogging that plagues them. ThinGap’s LS line of slotless motor kits range in size from 25 to 267 mm diameter and torque from 0.1 to 12 N-m continuous. With standard and modified configurations, the product line will cover voltages from 24-400 volts and current from 1 to 100 amps.

To learn more about the LS Series, click here.