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The Stanford Timing And Ranging –Cross-linking Optical Small Satellite Demonstration mission was an ambitious proposal seeking to place two CubeSats in low Earth orbit and establish a laser-based data link between them across hundreds of kilometers. Such a mission has never before been attempted. If successful, the technology developed will enable a dramatic leap forward in the capabilities of both cubesats and larger satellitesto communicate high volumes of data across long distances.

Optical links using lasers are capable of dramatically higher data transmission speeds than existing radio systems, but have never been successfully demonstrated at the cubesat scale. A CubeSat-sized optical communications system would enable high-speed links between CubeSats, allowing for networks built from affordable satellites. Miniaturizing an optical communications system to fit in a CubeSat would also make it far easier for larger satellites to add optical networking capabilities, an almost essential component of proposed internet satellite constellations.

Satellites with optical links can not only transmit data faster, but also better synchronize their timekeeping with each other and measure their separation distance, important features of boththe GPS system and groups of scientific satellites. With an optical network, satellites could conduct previously impossible scientific missions and significantly improve the accuracy of GPS