G&H target telecom technology for space

Paul Hosking, Sr. Optical Systems Engineer

Satellite operators are looking for innovative solutions to allow high data rate downloads without violating the resource constraints on micro-satellites. This opens a new market for optical communications solutions, focusing on providing higher data rates with lower or comparable on-board resource requirements compared to RF solutions.

The objective of the OPTEL µ product is to establish a robust direct detection lasercom system for space-to-ground communications from low earth orbit (400 to 900km).
OPTEL µ closes the gap in the market between RF and existing lasercom products and directly addresses new demands. OPTEL µ aims at developing a high performance, micro sized optical terminal for small/micro-satellites. The OPTEL µ miniature laser terminal provides access to optical frequencies for communications at minimised on-board resources. This will enable small/micro-satellites to provide downlink capabilities similar to larger platforms, but equally in line with their limited resources.

2 Channel EDFA
prototype 2 Channel EDFA (Erbium Doped Fiber Amplifier) system

The project TESLA targets the development of an OPTEL µ Engineering Model of the space terminal and of a prototype of the ground terminal. The main parameters were established together with ESA in the preceding START study. The TESLA EM hardware of the space terminal implements the full functionality and performance but has minor deviations to the flight design with respect to form and fit. The main goal is to demonstrate the entire system and to test the required performances.

While EDFA systems have been used in terrestrial systems for many years they are only now being considered for space applications. In partnership with RUAG, Gooch & Housego have developed a prototype 2 Channel EDFA (Erbium Doped Fiber Amplifier) system for use in space that has exceeded all specifications.

G&H’s Torquay based Systems Technology Group has recently demonstrated an engineering model with components selected for their suitability for use in space. The main challenges were producing a unit that had low mass, small volume, and required as small amount of electrical power as possible. The unit produced met all these requirements while delivering optical output power almost twice the required specification.

The next stage of this exciting project is to produce a fully space qualified EDFA which will travel into and be tested in space. This work is scheduled to start in Jan 2014 and so it could be said that G&H are making terrestrial technology, extra-terrestrial.

For further information regarding the EDFA or regarding STG’s space photonics developments please visit the Space Photonics section and contact Dr. Andrew Robertson, Sr. VP and STG General Manager.