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Towards Demonstration of Photonic Payload For Telecom Satellites

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - OPTIMA (Towards Demonstration of Photonic Payload For Telecom Satellites)

Reporting period: 2016-11-01 to 2019-10-31

The OPTIMA project aims at demonstrating the concept and benefits of a photonic payload for telecommunication satellites by joining the efforts of industrial and academic European actors from both the worlds of space and terrestrial communications.
In the near future, a major increase in telecommunication satellites capacity is required not only to address the challenges of the Digital Agenda for Europe, but also to remain in line with the steeply rising evolution of terrestrial communications in a globally connected world.
With the current Radio Frequency (RF) technology, there is a more or less linear relationship between the size, mass and power consumption of telecommunications payloads and their capacity. This means that without a major technological breakthrough, the capacity objectives cannot be met within the envelope allowed by the foreseen evolution of launchers (Ariane 6, Falcon 9 …) and satellite platforms (Eurostar Neo).
Photonics, the science of light (photon) generation, detection, and manipulation, has largely contributed to the revolution on Information Technology for terrestrial applications and is the most promising technology to overcome the issues faced by telecommunications satellites, thanks to the compact, lightweight and low-power nature of optical-fibre based equipment.
However, a great deal of effort is required to bring these benefits to the world of telecommunication payloads as all the photonics equipment used in terrestrial applications need to be adapted to endure the mechanical vibrations during launch and survive for 15 years in the harsh environment of a geo-stationary orbit (vacuum, thermal excursion, radiations).
The consortium in OPTIMA project consists of:
• Airbus Defence and Space Ltd, United Kingdom
• Airbus Defence and Space, SAS, France
• DAS Photonics, Spain
• SODERN, France
• Hubber+Suhner Polatis, United Kingdom
• Cordon Electronics, Italy
• IMEC, Belgium
In the OPTIMA project, Airbus Defence and Space (United Kingdom and France), a European and world-leading satellite prime manufacturer, defined, assemble and tested a photonic payload demonstrator to Technology Readiness (TRL6) based on building blocks developed or adapted for space and provided by other members of the consortium. DAS Photonics (Spain) and Cordon Electronics (Italy) focused their efforts on integrating and miniaturizing Photonics Frequency Generator Units (PFGU), Photonic Multi-Frequency Convertors (PMFC) and Optical-to-Electrical Modules (OEM). SODERN (France), Hubber+Suhner Polatis (UK) and IMEC (Belgium) worked together to ruggedize and qualify to TRL6 the DirectLight® Optical Switching Technology from Hubber+Suhner Polatis (UK), a major player in fibre optics connectivity equipment for ground applications.

By gathering all these actors around a concrete project, in a real-world industrial environment, the OPTIMA project provides a strong initial impulse to make photonics technology available to the space telecommunications industry and pave the way towards an in-orbit demonstration. The availability of this technology will not only allow the European space industry to address the challenges of the Digital Agenda for Europe, but also strengthen its position in a very competitive, worldwide market. In addition, the consortium network activated through OPTIMA will create new opportunities for each project partner, such as, new line of products for space equipment suppliers like DAS photonics and SODERN, new fields of applications for technology experts such as IMEC and Cordon Electronics and new potential markets for terrestrial communications equipment suppliers such as Hubber+Suhner Polatis.
The Overall Objectives of OPTIMA Project were:
Objective 1: Demonstrate and validate the photonics payload concept and its benefits in a relevant industrial environment
Objective 2: Establish specifications of each building block of future photonics payload
Objective 3: Establish a roadmap towards in-orbit demonstration of photonics payload
Objective 4: Increase general knowledge and raise the interest for photonics payload among the space industry
In the OPTIMA project, the PMFC, PFGU, OEM and the Optical Switch Unit (OSU) were designed according to the demonstrator system specs (input power and Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) and required output power and SNR) in order to be compatible with the target system requirements. A components selection campaign was carried out taking into account previous developments/projects related to OPTIMA. Such components were fully characterised and then if required they were qualified according to the pre-defined environmental tests needed to validate them for TRL6. Fully functional modules were developed and packaged according to suitable package design for a future payload, ensuring compatibility at interface level with the OPTIMA TRL6 demonstrator. Finally, a measurements campaign was carried out once the PMFC, PFGU, OEM and OSU units were ready and installed in the OPTIMA demonstrator and then the target performance and functionality were verified to TRL6.

The following is a brief outline of the main conclusion of the project:
• The complete OPTIMA photonic payload performance has been assessed against compliance matrix and has successfully passed all testing, characterisation and validation.
• Validation and test procedures and description of the different test set‐ups used to measure and evaluate the different performance requirements were successfully developed.
• Majority of the requirements have been successfully met. There were some minor deviations or non‐compliances which have been identified and solutions to overcome them in the next phase of the development have been proposed.
• Performance of the demonstrator during the Payload Level Performance testing in Airbus AIT facilities closely mirrored the results obtained during the initial tests carried out at DAS facilities
• The introduction of the Optical switch matrix during the final validation of the OPTIMA demonstrator at Airbus appeared to have little impact on the overall performance of the demonstrator other than the expected reduction in end to end gain
As a conclusion of Sodern, Polatis and IMEC work on the optical switch network in the OPTIMA project:
• It has been successfully proven that the POLATIS @Directlight technology is suitable for space optical switch, with damping of slices structure.
• Calibration, environmental and performances tests have been successfully passed and proved that the performances are stable.
• The Specific high voltage ASIC of Polatis product is not suitable for space. Preliminary trade-off and solutions to replace the ASIC in the next stage of development has been proposed.
The consortium has demonstrated for the first time the operation of a TRL6 photonics-based multi-frequency converter chain operating in Ka and V bands in combination with optical switching based on WDM techniques. This will enable easier capacity upgrades of multi-beam telecommunication satellites and also leverage the R&D investment to address next generation coherent inter-satellite links with fully integrated and qualified components.

We aim to use different institutional funding lines to support the next steps of development in OPTIMA, such as ESA ARTES, ESA SCYLIGHT, EC Fast Track to Innovation to support the remaining activities of the flight model development and/or support to IOD/IOV mission.
OPTIMA Payload Demonstrator Testing in the Cleanroom