Going Deeper on Space Lasers

Mynaric Mk3 terminal for satellite applications. Render via Mynaric.

Due to the data transmission and latency benefits of optical laser communications, it’s not just NASA tinkering with the technology. In China, researchers recently trialed laser-based communications between ground stations and the BeiDou constellation. 

In the private sector…Mynaric, which makes laser comms systems for the space industry, recently IPO’d on the Nasdaq. The German company also trades on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

Canaccord Genuity initiated coverage of Mynaric on Nov. 23 with a “buy” rating and $40 price target. Mynaric’s stock was ~$15 at market close on Friday, Dec. 3. In the investment bank’s note, seen by Payload, Canaccord elaborated on its bullish stance. 

  • A “significant market opportunity” exists for laser terminals on aircraft and spacecraft.
  • Constellation customers: Communication and remote-sensing satellites, respectively representing 85% and 12% of all sats launched in 2020, are key customers of the technology. 
  • The Pentagon, too, is a key customer. Laser comms are significantly harder to hack/intercept than radiofrequency (RF) broadcasts. 
  • Speaking of RF…”The limited supply of wireless spectrum should further drive demand to move up in frequency to infrared light for data transmission over the coming years,” Cannacord wrote. 

Elsewhere: SpaceX is equipping and launching new Starlink satellites with inter-satellite links and laser terminals. On the economics of adding the technology, SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell said earlier this year: 

  • “It is [expensive], although….our terminals are far less expensive than those that we surveyed. Anything you add to that satellite is expensive, but when you pack 60 of them together and throw them on one reusable launch vehicle, the economics are pretty favorable for us.”
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