A LEO laser-based optical communications testbed was been approved by NASDA in the early 1990s for launch in 1997 on a J-l booster. Dubbed OICETS (Optical Inter-Orbit Communications Engineering Test Satellite), the 500-kg class vehicle was to be placed into a 500-km-high orbit and will work Directly with ESA's ARTEMIS satellite. OICETS was to carry both S-band and laser communications packages. The rectangular spacecraft bus would be approximately 0.8 m x 1.1 m x 1.5 m with two solar arrays stretching a total span of nearly nine meters (References 178-181).
OICETS (Optical Inter-orbit Communications Engineering Test Satellite) is a Japanese (JAXA) technology demonstration satellite that was launched by a Dnepr booster from Baikonur at 21:10 UT on 23 August 2005. The 600 kg satellite carries an optical communications instrument called LUCE (Laser-Utilizing Communications Equipment) which has a 10-inch telescope that acts as a transmitter and receiver to communicate with the European (ESA) satellite, Artemis. OICETS will study the effect of the irreducible vibrations in a satellite in maintaining a pointing accuracy of one millidegree that is required to communicate with another satellite 32,000 km away.
On Oct. 16 (Japan Standard Time, JST), the mission operation of the "Kirari (OICETS)" was completed after successful experiments with a GEO satellite and optical ground stations. The "Kirari" successfully performed bi-directional optical communication experiments with the advanced data relay engineering satellite in Geostationary orbit (GEO), ARTEMIS, of the European Space Agency (ESA) in Dec. 2005. Furthermore, many other experiments were successfully carried out including optical communication experiments with the ground optical stations of the National Institute of Information and Communication Technology (NICT) and the German Space Agency (DLR). The success of the experiment between the lower orbited satellite and a ground station was a global first. The project team regards those achievements as an "extra success."
The Optical Inter-orbit Communications Engineering Test Satellite "KIRARI" was in the latter part of the post-mission utilization phase since Oct. 2006. JAXA has conducted various optical communication tests in cooperation with the National Institute of Information and Communication Technology (NICT) and other overseas space organizations. On September 9, JAXA reported to the Space Activities Commission on the achievements and initiative for studying the next generation optical communication technology.
At 2:48 p.m. on Sept. 24, 2009, signal transmissions to the Optical Inter-orbit Communications Engineering Test Satellite "KIRARI" (OICETS) were terminated, and its operation was completed. The KIRARI was initially scheduled to be operated in orbit for about one year, but it survived for four years, much longer than the original plan. The KIRARI made many achievements in the space optical communication area including bi-directional optical inter-satellite communication and links between a lower-orbit satellite and a ground optical station.
- 178. "Optical Communications Tests", Aviation Week and Space Technology, 27 July 1992, p. 13.
- 179. "Agencies Forge Pact", Space News, 12-18 December 1994, p. 23.
- 180. "Optical Inter-Orbit Communications", Spaceflight, April 1995, pp. 116-117.
- 181. B.I. Edelson, op. cit., pp. 259-268.
- Adapted from: Europe and Asia in Space 1993-1994, Nicholas Johnson and David Rodvold [Kaman Sciences / Air Force Phillips Laboratory]
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