We discuss several potential methods of generating optical RZ data signals, distinguishing between direct RZ modulation and modulation of a primary pulse train which is either generated by using a modelocked laser, by sinusoidally driving of an external modulator, or by gainswitching of a laser diode. We analyze the properties of each method with regard to the most critical aspects for space-borne laser communication systems such as repetition rate, duty cycle, extinction ratio, frequency chirp, timing jitter, robustness, complexity, commercial availability, and lifetime. Most modelocked lasers are highly sensitive to ambient perturbations, necessitating accurate temperature control and mechanical stabilization. Also, they typically provide pulses with less than 10% duty cycle, which can result in a decreased sensitivity of optically preamplified receivers. Directly modulated semiconductor lasers are compact and robust but suffer from large frequency chirp, which deteriorates the receiver sensitivity. One reliable RZ source is a conventional DFB semiconductor laser with two intensity modulators, one for pulse generation and one for data modulation. Both Mach-Zehnder modulators co-packaged with a laser diode or monolithically integrated electroabsorption modulators should be considered. These modulators can provide almost transform-limited pulses at high repetition rates and with duty cycles of about 30%. Robustness and lifetime are highly promising.