Technology Development for Breakthrough Starshot Communications System

Philip D. Mauskopf, Todd M.W. Hodges

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


We describe the requirements and associated technology development plan for the communications data link from the Breakthrough Starshot interstellar probes. The Starshot project is an effort to send the first low mass interstellar probes to nearby star systems and send back scientific data acquired during system transit within the time scale of a human lifetime. The increase in distance to nearby stars compared to the outer planets of our solar system requires a new form of propulsion to reach speeds of approximately 20% of the speed of light. The proposed use of a low mass sailcraft places strong constraints on the mass and power for the Starshot communications system. We compare the communications systems in current and upcoming solar system probes, New Horizons and Psyche, to the requirements for Starshot and define Figures of Merit for the communications capability in terms of data downlink rate per unit mass and unit transmit power. Finally, we describe a roadmap for technology development to meet the goals for the Starshot communications system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
StatePublished - 2022
Event73rd International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2022 - Paris, France
Duration: Sep 18 2022Sep 22 2022


  • Breakthrough
  • Deep space optical communications
  • Single photon detectors
  • Starshot

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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