How Can Optical Communications Shape the Future of Deep Space Communications? A Survey

With a large number of deep space (DS) missions anticipated by the end of this decade, reliable and high-capacity DS communications are needed more than ever. Nevertheless, existing technologies are far from meeting such a goal. Improving current systems does not only require engineering leadership, but also, very crucially, investigating potential technologies that overcome the unique challenges of ultra-long DS links. To the best of our knowledge, there has not been any comprehensive surveys of DS communications technologies over the last decade. Free space optical (FSO) is an emerging DS technology, proven to acquire lower communications systems size weight and power (SWaP) and achieve a very high capacity compared to its counterpart radio frequency (RF), the currently used DS technology. In this survey, we discuss the pros and cons of deep space optical communications (DSOC) and review their physical and networking characteristics. Furthermore, we provide, for the first time, thoughtful discussions about implementing orbital angular momentum (OAM) and quantum communications (QC) for DS. We elaborate on how these technologies among other field advances including interplanetary network (IPN) and RF/FSO systems improve reliability, capacity, and security. This paper provides a holistic survey of DSOC technologies gathering 247 fragmented pieces of literature and including novel perspectives aiming to set the stage for more developments in the field.