Sea West and PlaneWave Selected by Mynaric for Space Development Agency’s Optical Ground Station Program

Jan 4, 2024


San Dimas, CA, January 4, 2024Sea West Observatories and PlaneWave Instruments are proud to announce their collaboration with Mynaric in the design and development of a laser communications optical ground station for the Space Development Agency (SDA). As part of the US Department of Defense, SDA is developing the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA), which includes the use of free-space optical communications (FSO) to provide high throughput and resiliency to the network.

The SDA has chosen Mynaric, a leading provider of industrialized, cost-effective, and scalable laser communications products, to contribute to the program. Set to kick off in 2025, the mission is to demonstrate successful connections between various space-based optical communications terminals (OCTs) and an optical ground terminal.

Mynaric selected PlaneWave Instruments to manufacture the telescope, gimbal, and enclosure, along with Sea West Observatories to design and build the facility site and structure. In this collective effort, the resulting ground station will be a versatile, relocatable solution for space-to-ground optical communications.

“The significance of this advancement in fielded technology cannot go understated. This project will be a tremendous step towards proliferating the benefits in data security and bandwidth offered by free-space optical communications,” explains Eric Blackhurst, VP of Sales and Marketing at PlaneWave. “We believe that this will significantly enhance what the SDA can offer to other US agencies in support of various missions. PlaneWave is thrilled to be working with the SDA, Mynaric, and Sea West Observatories on this project.”

Matt Dieterich, Program Manager of Observatories at Sea West, added, “Sea West is honored to work with PlaneWave and Mynaric to deliver on the infrastructure and facility side of this project. An innovative project like this will offer a concrete format for future free-space optical communication. This is many years in the making and the time is right.”

“Optical communication has already seen significant use in interlinks between satellites, while the development of ground-based systems for two-way communication between Earth and orbit using FSO is only now seeing real deployment,” added Blackhurst. “This collaborative endeavor not only underscores the parties’ commitment to pushing the boundaries of optical communications but is also significant in advancing the needed reality of FSO ground stations.”


With over 25 years of observatory construction experience, Sea West Observatories has a strong focus on academic and institutional projects. Past projects in space situational awareness have provided valuable insights into observatory builds, preparing Sea West for cutting-edge projects like the SDA’s innovative free space optical communications ground station.

PlaneWave Instruments has a strong history supporting education and research in astronomy. Over the last five years, PlaneWave has actively engaged with customers in the space domain awareness and experimental laser communication market. Their expertise extends to supporting groups venturing into quantum key distribution experimentation.