U.S. Department of Defense Awards $332,000 Contract to Space Photonics

Funding to support further development of patented LaserFire system

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Chuck Chalfant, president and CEO, Space Photonics Inc. Photo by Russell Cothren.

Chuck Chalfant, president and CEO, Space Photonics Inc. Photo by Russell Cothren.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. --The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a $332,000 contract to Space Photonics to further develop its patented LaserFire Free Space Optical Communications Systems for military and intelligence customers.

Space Photonics Inc., a Genesis Technology Incubator client at the University of Arkansas, is partnering with SCHOTT North America Inc. and Harris Corp. in establishing and commercializing this technology.

The LaserFire system, developed in laboratories at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park, incorporates a patented automated beam pointing, acquisition and tracking technique. This method ensures a more robust network when optical communications performance is critical, regardless of available bandwidth, distance, adverse weather conditions or movement. Because the terminal uses low-power infrared lasers, it is nearly impossible for adversaries to detect and intercept the beam while the communications system is operating.

Last fall, Space Photonics entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with SCHOTT North America to manufacture the LaserFire system.

"This contract allows us to help the military solve communications problems they've identified by increasing bandwidth capacities and extending communication ranges," said Terry Tidwell, chief engineer of free space optics at Space Photonics. "However, the applications of the LaserFire system go well beyond the scope of this contract as it can be used in cellular data backhaul and Metro-Area Networks to support day-to-day communication networks in the commercial sector."

The Department of Defense Phase II contract came through the Small Business Innovation Research Program, which allows federal agencies to stimulate technological innovation in the private sector by strengthening small businesses that meet federal research and development needs. The program also is intended to increase the commercial application of federally supported research results.

Space Photonics develops, markets and sells high reliability optical communications systems for military and aerospace applications. Customers have included the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and NASA. Products include their patented LaserFire free space optical communications systems; space qualified radiation-hard FireFiber fiber optics, and FireRing high-capacity networks.

Nearly all of the firm's employees are graduates of the U of A, including founder Chuck Chalfant, Space Photonics' president and chief executive officer. He holds a master's degree in physics from the university.

Contacts:

Chuck Chalfant, president/CEO
Space Photonics Inc.
479-856-6360, cchalfant@spacephotonics.com

Chris Branam, research communications writer/editor
University Relations
479-575-4737, cwbranam@uark.edu

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