Airbus is leading and co-financing a new aircraft laser communication terminal demonstrator development programme called UltraAir.

The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) and the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) are also co-financing the project.

It is part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Secure and Laser communication technology (ScyLight) programme and involves the design, construction and testing of the technology demonstrator.

The UltraAir airborne laser terminal will help establish connections between an aircraft and a satellite in geostationary orbit using superior technology, including an optical mechatronic system.

The technology demonstrator will result in a future UltraAir product that would enable data transmission rates to reach several gigabits a second.

Airbus will leverage its expertise in laser satellite communications. It will be responsible for managing the terminal development, and ground and air testing.

TNO will offer its high-precision optomechatronics experience with support from the Dutch high-tech and space industry.

Airbus Defence and Space in the Netherlands will take care of the terminals’ industrial production.

In addition, Airbus’ subsidiary Tesat will support testing activities and provide its technical expertise in laser communication systems.

Initial test demonstrations of the terminal are slated to be conducted at the end of this year while the second phase ground tests will take place in Tenerife, Spain, early next year.

During the second phase, an UltraAir demonstrator and a laser terminal embarked on the Alphasat satellite will set up connectivity using the ESA optical ground station.

The terminal will be integrated on an aircraft for flight testing by mid-2022 for final verification.