Free-Space optical communications has been a subject of research interest nearly since the advent of the laser. Space applications have long been the elusive destiny for this technology. This paper discusses some of the flight experiment history dating back to 1965 and the issues which have delayed widespread adoption. The general benefits and some shortcomings of optical communications over RF alternatives are described. Technological status against today's and future requirements is assessed. Various future applications, notably those in Japan and Europe, are discussed.
James E. Freidell,
"Status of free-space optical communications and its future applications", Proc. SPIE 2215, Photonics for Space Environments II, (8 June 1994); doi: 10.1117/12.177640; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.177640