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BridgeSat has added former Boeing executive Craig R. Cooning to its board, bringing additional industry knowledge to the satellite systems company.

“In his 42-plus years of aerospace experience in the U.S. Air Force and at The Boeing Company, Craig has played key roles in developing and delivering many of the world’s most advanced satellite systems, including GPS, Intelsat, and the International Space Station,” said Barry Matsumori, BridgeSat CEO, in a press release Nov. 28. “We’re fortunate to have his expertise and vision as we develop a next-generation optical networking solution that will revolutionize satellite communications worldwide.”

BridgeSat operates a global network of ground stations and space terminals. Whereas most satellite systems use radio frequency signals, BridgeSat creates an option (laser-based optical satellite communications) which can transport more data, up to 10 gigabits per second per link. They provide both satellite hardware and space terminals, the data terminals that operate on the spacecraft.

CEO Barry Matsumori told Product Design & Development that Cooning brings valuable industry knowledge to the board. “He is the first board member that brings industry experience to the team. He can help us with contacts in the Air Force and commercial space, and with products and industry and production experience.”

Matsumori said that BridgeSat is dedicated to trying to solve the problem of a lack of RF spectrum available on the ground and in space. The amount of data in demand has gone up, and customers are looking for not just more bandwidth but also more speed.

“In the optical domain there’s almost unlimited bandwidth, there’s very little interference, almost none. With optical, supporting ranges of speed like 10 gigabits is something we consider standard. With multiplexes you can go up to ranges of 100 gigabits,” Matsumori said.

While laser optical communications technology is not itself new, it has mostly been used for government projects instead of commercial ones. In order to compete in the commercial space market, BridgeSat needs to keep up with best practices for commercial space work. That can clash with the more conservative nature of government space work – clients in the commercial space need to be able to update their technology regularly instead of expecting hardware to last for ten or 15 years.

“One of the things that’s happening in the space market is companies are looking for shorter lifetimes and coverage at low orbit as well as geostationary,” Matsumori said. “That means they want to be able to do tech refreshes faster than they did before, taking advantage of microprocessor speed, new hardware designs.”

BridgeSat plans to add 10 more ground sites to the existing two in 2018, and 30 or more sites in 2019, and partnering with Low-Earth Orbit satellite operators. Current clients include Japan’s Engineering Test Satellite 9 (to be launched in 2021) and Swedish Space Corporation.

“What’s interesting for me when I talk to industry people or investors is they all agree that optical communication or communication by lasers is going to happen. The only open question is when, because to date they’ve all been very expensive programs. When BridgeSat came along we allowed that question to be addressed again, saying it could be accelerated because there’s actually a commercial solution,” Matsumori said.

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