Investing in The Future

Record numbers of satellites are being launched, with more sophisticated sensors that produce exponentially more valuable data that is used in important applications, from climate monitoring to maritime protection. However much of this data is lost at the edge, due to the radio spectrum bottleneck. The ability of optical communication to throughput enormous data volumes makes it a favored alternative.

Given the increasing number of satellites launching each year and the need to move data quickly and securely between satellites and the ground, the number of laser communications opportunities is growing rapidly. Optical satellite communication is increasingly being integrated with terrestrial optical fiber networks to supplement RF communications. This integration has the potential to greatly improve the satellite communication infrastructure by enabling reliable high-speed data flows between satellites and terrestrial networks. Wireless laser communication is rapidly becoming a critical technology for the future of connectivity.

DFM Engineering believes that the infrastructure for satellite communication will become as essential for future commerce as physical bridges were in the past.  Indeed, creating the information superhighway for the space economy will help propel humanity into a new age of space commerce, exploration, security, and environmental awareness. 

The trajectory of the industry to procure and deploy industrialized laser communications systems is increasing rapidly. Currently, the optical satellite communication market is valued at USD 282 million in 2023 and is projected to reach USD 1134 million by 2028, at a CAGR of 32.1% from 2023 to 2028. According to MarketDigits’ recent study, Ground-To-Satellite Optical Communication Terminals are predicted to hold the highest CAGR during this forecasted period. 

One of the driving reasons for the highest growth segment to be in the Ground-To-Satellite Communication Terminals market is that the network must be diversified to increase downlink opportunities in order to mitigate meteorological disturbances. In addition, if the million plus satellites proposed to International Telecommunication Union (ITU) database are actually launched, a built-out network of Optical Ground Stations (OGS) may number in the hundreds of thousands.  The proposed satellites, arranged in a group of 300 megaconstellations are slated to provide efficient and high-capacity communication channels for data-intensive applications such as high-definition video streaming, virtual reality, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Simply put, the predicted growth in the required quantity of optical communications terminals is unprecedented. The reality of the situation is that current world-wide optical production capacity is grossly undersized to meet even the lowest of growth demand estimates. The key to fully unlocking the industrial age of laser communications and transitioning from a trending research topic into a profitable commodity business will be to get the entire supply chain ready for production and scale-up to reach commercial affordability. 

Currently, the entire Optical Ground Station marketplace is in the prototype phase. As a trusted and proven leader in delivering unique optical surveillance capabilities for space domain awareness (SDA), DFM Engineering is entering an exciting new phase bringing our technology to market with our partners and customers. DFM Engineering is implementing optical communication as a key enabler of our commercial business model going forward.

With our in-house design and development expertise, DFM has developed new products to meet current space market needs. Currently in pre-series production, our LEO Scope™ and LEO Comm™ products offer satellite and ground operators a platform for further design and refinement of operational concepts of the ground and space segments. These products have been designed and manufactured for mass deployment, minimizing future revisional changes for operators.

Additionally, DFM Engineering is capable of producing an Alt-Alt or Alt-Az design that is capable of easy setup for mobile applications and testing. Our experience allows us to integrate our telescopes with mobile platforms to create a test-bed for demonstration and validation of different technologies in various environments, atmospheric turbulence levels, climate / weather conditions, and varying light pollution levels – something that simply cannot be accomplished using fixed dedicated ground stations.

When it comes to Optical Ground Stations, it is often not widely understood that they are much more than just a simple telescope with a detector. On the downlink, an optical ground station has to collect photons with a telescope and focus them onto a detector which requires holding the satellite image onto a 50 micron pixel while tracking at 1000 arcseconds per second, where the light is then detected. These signals are then processed to recover the information embedded in the beam. Without some sort of compensation, it is necessary to utilize large and slow detectors with low data rates that prevent realizing the full potential of optical communication.

The current art is to use Adaptive Optics to correct for atmospheric turbulence and induced vibrations and errors in the telescope mount. While Adaptive Optics can compensate for these problems, they come with great added complexity. This complexity always translates into cost, with more downtime and maintenance costs.

With the future calling for large deployments of widely dispersed Optical Ground Stations, it’s not always feasible to have a crew ready to visit the remote location for unscheduled troubleshooting and maintenance. OGSs demand tight control on maintenance; otherwise, operating expenditures can go through the roof, impacting end customers.

To address these issues, DFM Engineering has developed a unique patent pending solution that eliminates the need for adaptive optics while maintaining throughput potential, greatly reducing both initial costs, and the extensive and ongoing maintenance costs. Our experience with automated and fully autonomous telescopes has produced systems that require the least human intervention possible. Informed by data over the past 45 years, our engineering team has learned how to refine telescopes for reliability and uptime that measures in decades, not years or months. 

We are actively seeking investment partners, clients, and collaborators to develop and deploy this capability. Additional funding will enable us to expand both our team and production facility to take advantage of these new and emerging opportunities. Our existing 16,000 square foot facility is located in Longmont, Colorado, a state whose space industry ranks as the second-largest space economy amongst all U.S. states. Colorado companies are at the forefront of the commercialization of space with a rapidly growing new space industry and with several US Space Force installations. Colorado’s critical mass of Aerospace companies provides an excellent talent pool for the region.

If you are an Investment Professional, Certified High Net-Worth Individual or a Self-Certified Sophisticated Investor, with extensive experience and networks in the photonics industry, please reach out to us today.