Photonics systems and components are found in an increasing number of space missions and the need for new earth and universe observation satellites is deeply increasing, setting new challenges for fibre-optic components in the hostile space environment where they are exposed to ionising radiation.
Photline has recently delivered 1064nm phase modulators to JPL-NASA. Two of them are being integrated in the rangefinders of the two satellites of the GRACE2 NASA mission. The GRACE2 mission will be launched in 2017 and will measure variations in gravity over Earth’s surface, producing regularly updated maps of the gravity field with a 20 times improved accuracy compared with the current measurement system.
In 2015, Photline will deliver the space equipment manufacturer TESAT-SPACECOM with customised phase and intensity modulators for its new generation of laser communication terminals used for inter-satellite optical communication. The use of external modulation will allow the implementation of a new modulation format (BPSK) and lead to improved data-rates and bit error rate.
With more than 20 flying navigation systems equipped with its fibres, iXFiber has a strong space experience. Earlier this year, iXFiber introduced radiation-hardened active optical fibres designed to be used in optical amplifiers and fibre lasers deployed into space. The components are compatible with high cumulated irradiation doses, with a gain modification < 0.25 dB/100 krad for a 30 dB gain erbium-doped fibre-amplifier (EDFA), and can be used with the associated space-compatible passive fibres.
Photline and iXFiber are subsidiaries of iXBlue, an independent industrial group that develops and manufactures technology used for navigation, positioning, sub-sea imaging, ocean and land exploration.