In order to address the high throughput requested for both downlink and uplink satellite to ground laser links, adaptive optics (AO) has become a key technology. While maturing, application of this technology for satellite to ground telecommunication, however, faces difficulties, such as higher bandwidth and optimal operation for a wide variety of atmospheric conditions (daytime and nighttime) with potentially low elevations that might severely affect wavefront sensing because of scintillation. To address these specificities, an accurate understanding of the origin of the perturbations is required, as well as operational validation of AO on real laser links. We report here on a low Earth orbiting (LEO) microsatellite to ground downlink with AO correction. We discuss propagation channel characterization based on Shack–Hartmann wavefront sensor (WFS) measurements. Fine modeling of the propagation channel is proposed based on multi-Gaussian model of turbulence profile. This model is then used to estimate the AO performance and validate the experimental results. While AO performance is limited by the experimental set-up, it proves to comply with expected performance and further interesting information on propagation channel is extracted. These results shall help dimensioning and operating AO systems for LEO to ground downlinks.