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Optical space communications is on the verge of becoming a reality. It will be a key building block for wide-area space data networks of the future. We discuss the critical technology and architecture issues to be addressed for the realization of these systems, and present examples of high level designs. Design methodologies treating these as complex engineering systems, and the technique to breakdown the systems into interacting but logically separate subsystems for design and analysis, are suggested. Fundamental limits of performance and avenues for promising future research and development are given.