PARIS—Start-up optical service provider Laser Light Communications has selected Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. as prime contractor for building the first global, all-optical commercial satellite constellation.

The contract includes a first-phase design analysis that will lead to completion of an eight-satellite constellation operating in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). The complete constellation of up to 12 satellites is expected to deliver 6 Tbps with 200-Gbps. service speeds bi-directionally, or nearly 100 times faster than conventional radio downlinks.

Ball adds that while conventional systems require labor-intensive infrastructure and can be vulnerable to service disruptions, Laser Light will deliver equivalent bandwidth connections at lower operating costs with higher speed and reliability. The new optical system will be designed to integrate seamlessly with existing ground networks and offer multiple downlink locations to eliminate slowdowns from network congestion, outages or weather interruptions.

"We’ve had a long history with laser communications, starting years ago with Teledesic and most recently under a contract where we did work on the Transformational Satellite [TSAT] program," Cary Ludtke, vice president and general manager of Ball’s Operational Space business unit, said during World Satellite Business Week here Sept. 12. "So, we’re bringing that heritage, with our pointing and tracking capability—which allows us to take images of the Earth with high-resolution Earth observation satellites that aren’t fuzzy—into a different configuration of systems where we use an all-optical cross-link system."

Ball has designed and integrated complete laser terminals for a variety of user applications that span airborne, spaceborne, terrestrial- and ship-based missions. Most recently, the company completed a risk-reduction analysis for the Defense Department’s TSAT program that examined secure, high data-rate transfers for military communication satellites using optical terminals.

"Ball’s selection for the contract concludes a 15-month competitive process that vetted 24 global firms to validate that a global laser communications constellation could be built and deployed cost-effectively, without sacrificing performance or schedule," said Robert Brumley, senior managing director at Laser Light.