Space Photonics R&D

Space Photonics R&D

Space Photonics is expected to disrupt satellite technology in the same way fiber optics revolutionized terrestrial networks.

Photonics can play a vital role in next generation communication and attitude control systems and enable broadband internet satellite connectivity, high bit-rate satellite links and facilitate high-speed communication between deep space probes exploring our solar system. Offering lower mass and power consumption together with critical performance boosts, photonics technology can find application in broadcast media, telecommunications, navigation and science. Building on its successful use in science missions, photonics technology is in the process of being qualified for widespread applications for both satellite to satellite communication and on-board satellite data processing and routing.

Gooch & Housego’s Systems Technology Group (STG) is a strong R&D center, actively focused on developing the company’s next generation product lines within the space domain. The center of mass of G&H space photonics activities is on the development of systems for the generation, transmission, amplification and reception of light.

Photonic Telecom Payloads

Satellite communications now need to provide higher capacity and increased flexibility to remain competitive and deliver High Definition Television (HDTV) and cable distribution channel services that drive satellite growth rates. It is becoming increasingly difficult to deliver the required capacity upgrades in next generation telecom satellites by RF/microwave technology, due to mass and power consumption constraints imposed by the launcher and platforms used today. A promising solution currently being investigated by major satellite vendors worldwide is the introduction of photonics into new generation of flexible photonic payloads.

G&H is currently developing high-reliability fiber optic and opto-electronic components and sub-systems for flexible photonic payloads enabling high-capacity satellite networks. The development roadmap concentrates on the design and development of microwave photonic sub-systems, optical fiber amplifier arrays and laser transmitters for realizing optical processing and routing on board flexible telecom satellites.

Relevant projects

Laser communication terminals (LCT)

High-speed connectivity between satellites and from satellites to ground using laser communications has been identified as a promising future-proof technology solution for delivering the bandwidth requirements imposed by Earth Observation and telecom satellite networks

G&H is currently developing a full range of space-qualified photonic components including high-performance lasers, photodetectors and passive fiber optics. Critical LCT units are developed through functional integration of in-house developed components. G&H aims to commercialize a full family of optical fiber amplifiers, including  booster and high-power amplifiers as well as optical pre-amplifiers for use within Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geostationary (GEO) satellites as well as in future deep space probes enabling inter-satellite and satellite to ground links. The research activity is co-funded by the EU and the qualification and product development by ESA, within the ARTES and ECI frameworks.

Relevant R&D projects

Relevant ESA product development programs

Optically-interconnected On-Board Processors

Current global broadband communication networks rely on satellites to complement the terrestrial telecommunication infrastructure. As new broadband applications emerge, telecom satellite technology is continuously pressured to cope with increasing bandwidth demands. Modern telecom satellites incorporate on-board processors that are responsible to process a large number of signals. As the amount of information exchanged increases, so does the physical size and power consumption of these systems that are required to transfer massive amounts of data quickly, efficiently and at low cost through bulk electric wires.

Photonics has been identified as the technology of choice for replacing the interconnection of on-board processors by fiber optic cables for creating faster, lighter and less power consuming links within the satellite repeater payload.

G&H packaging and module integration capabilities are leveraged for designing high-speed optical transceivers capable of operating reliably in the stringent requirements set by the space flight environment over the full operational lifetime of the satellite. G&H has internal and EU-funded research and development activities supporting the commercialization of space transceivers that find application in optically-interconnected on-board processors within next generation terabit communications satellites.

Relevant R&D projects