In-Space Demonstration of Optical Intersatellite Link (O-ISL) Nanosatellite Technology

The FSSCAT nanosatellite mission, sponsored by the European Space Agency is expected to be launched onboard of the Vega SSMS Maiden Flight in August 2019, sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA). This presentation will provide an overview of the Optical Intersatellite Link (O-ISL) technology demonstrator onboard FSSCAT, of which the speaker is one of the two Principal Investigators. The presentation will provide background information on the mission, including precursor work on a successful stratospheric demonstrator. It will frame the discussion within the academic journey of the speaker between related education, research, and innovation activities in space engineering.

In addition to its remote sensing objectives, FSSCAT will demonstrate for the first time worldwide a reliable optical intersatellite link (O-ISL) between two 6U CubeSats flying in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). We have developed the first-ever full duplex O-ISL terminal of 1.5U in size (15cm x 10cm x 10cm), 85mm optical aperture, suitable for LEO to LEO operations on coarse pointing CubeSats (pointing accuracy < 0.5 deg). The terminal adopts a novel adaptive variable divergence laser mechanism with a hybrid payload/platform seek-and-track pointing algorithm, and an amplitude modulated signal to ensure reliable optical communications at 1 Gbps at a nominal intersatellite distance of up to 2,000 km in LEO. In addition of establishing an intersatellite link, the terminal provides the ability for simultaneous imaging through the optical aperture and the improvement of the attitude determination capability of the hosting satellite through the mixing of optical information in the overall platform attitude feedback control loop.

This presentation will describe the O-ISL systems architecture and the concept of operations of the optical intersatellite technology demonstration. The remote sensing objectives of FSSCAT, implemented by the team at Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya led by Prof. Adriano Camps will be as well overviewed. The payloads carried onboard FSSCAT include a Flexible Microwave Payload-2 (FMPL-2), a GNSS-Reflectometer, an L-band radiometer with interference detection/mitigation, and a hyperspectral imaging instrument. The science objectives of the mission include the measurement of soil moisture, ice extent and thickness, as well as the detection of melting ponds over ice.



Space Systems Engineer, Alessandro Golkar is Associate Professor at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), an international research university in Moscow, Russia, founded in 2011 in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Since April 2017, Alessandro Golkar is on academic leave from Skoltech as Vice President Concurrent Engineering (Technology Planning and Roadmapping) at the Airbus Corporate Technology Office (CTO) in Toulouse, France, for a planned duration of two years. In his role, Prof. Golkar has founded the Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) of the Airbus Group, now developed in three Airbus sites (Toulouse France, Bremen Germany and Filton UK). He has contributed to the development of the Technology Planning and Roadmapping methodology at Airbus. The TPR methodology is now used to manage the portfolio of Research and Technology (R&T) investments of all divisions of the Company.

Prior to entering on academic leave, Prof. Golkar served as the Director of the Skoltech Space Center in Moscow. He has established the scientific and operational strategy of the Space Center, which has grown during his Director tenure to a research unit of about 80 people between students, researchers, and faculty. Among other contributions to the Institute, he has been the leading curriculum developer and coordinator of the Master’s and Doctoral Program in Space Systems Engineering at Skoltech. He has led or contributed to research projects sponsored by the European Space Agency, the European Commission, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and NASA Headquarters, among others.

The research in Prof. Golkar’s group looks at new ways for looking at complex systems architecting problems, understanding the evolution of technology, and developing research and demonstrators of novel space mission concepts and spacecraft payload systems.

Prof. Golkar is the Principal Investigator of the Optical Intersatellite Link (O-ISL) experiment of the FSSCAT mission, funded by the European Space Agency, Overall Winner of the Copernicus Masters 2017 and 2017 ESA Sentinel Small Satellite Challenge.

Prof. Golkar holds a Ph.D. degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Master’s and Bachelor’s degree in Astronautics and Aerospace Engineering from the Università di Roma “La Sapienza”.


Date & time

3pm 14 Mar 2019



Professor Alessandro Golkar

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