Free Space Optics involves the optical transmission of data using an optical signal as the carrier frequency. It involves two systems each consisting of an optical transceiver which consists of a laser transmitter and a receiver to provide full duplex communication capability. The optical signal travels through free space to another telescope that receives the information.
The transmission of data between satellites via optical links has been used since 2001 and is a well-established technology. Free Space Optics has also been widely used to transmit data point-to-point over terrestrial networks. However, the duplex transmission of data between a ground station and a satellite is an emergent capability.
While the need for faster data transmission of ever-increasing amounts of data is perpetual, data speeds over traditional radio frequency networks are limited absent significant increases in antenna sizes and power systems. Free Space Optics communications provides the potential of breaking the bottleneck of radio frequency links by using an optical carrier with a frequency ten thousand times higher than in radio frequency.