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Space-grade Opto-electronic Interfaces for Photonic Digital and Analogue Very-high-throughput Satellite payloads

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SIPhoDiAS (Space-grade Opto-electronic Interfaces for Photonic Digital and Analogue Very-high-throughput Satellite payloads)

Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2021-12-31

Following their widespread installation within terrestrial datacenters, photonics are gearing up for their penetration into modern communication satellites. The new class of satellites dubbed “VHTS – Very High Throughput Satellite” - is considered to offer a technologically advanced expansion of the terrestrial communication network capable to deliver both high-end corporate-level and consumer-level connectivity in diverse end-user locations. To do so, VHTS is requested to push the next frontier in the Terabit/second range under stringent SWaP boundary conditions driving the migration towards photonics. This migration is already “going live”; Thales Alenia Space is the first prime to introduce optical interconnects in a commercial system and this is expected to open the opportunity for photonics penetration in every part of the satellite payload. To complete the effort, a new class of photonic building blocks – these are the opto-electronic (O/E) interfaces, i.e. transceivers, modulators and photodetectors are necessary. These components are installed in the highest volumes and are used to optically interconnect the satellite payload equipment – the same way as O/E interfaces are used to optically interconnect racks and boards of equipment within datacenters. The current O/E component generation is still lacking in terms of speed, power consumption and size and an upgrade of performance accommodated by reliability has to be demonstrated.
SIPhoDiAS aims to advance these components to address opto-electronic performance, size and power, and at the same time, demonstrate their reliability targeting a TRL 7, enabling the next generation of VHTS P/L systems. SIPHODIAS invests in state-of-the-art SiGe BiCMOS, GaAs and InP manufacturing technologies as well as innovative assembly and module packaging to deliver high-speed digital optical transceivers, high-bandwidth electro-optic modulator arrays and miniaturized analogue photodetectors. The optical transceivers are designed to deliver >100 Gb/s optical interconnects within the P/L digital processor whereas modulators and photodetectors will enable operating frequencies in the Q and V-band respectively. By realizing its S&T objectives, SIPhoDiAS will present for the first time photonic P/L systems that hit the right performance and SWaP targets and enable the sustained entry of photonics into modern communication satellites.
During its second period, SIPHODIAS has delivered the fabrication of prototype electronic integrated circuits and photonic modules that have verified the manufacturability and feasibility of the new technical solutions proposed in the application of satellite photonic payloads:
• Fabrication and testing of 4 channel high-speed VCSEL driver and TIA receiver circuits. IC fabrication was performed in IHP 130 nm SiGe BiCMOS SG13RH process.
• Assembly and packaging of 4-channel high-speed mid-board optics VCSEL transceiver module occupying 6.7 cm2 of PCB area and weighing 6.4 grams.
• Assembly and packaging of a high bandwidth electro-optic modulator integrated in GaAs applicable to microwave-photonic mixing of optical local oscillators and high-frequency RF signals. The modulator features a 3-dB bandwidth in excess of 40 GHz.
• Assembly and packaging of high bandwidth microwave photodiode module applicable to direct optical-to-electrical conversion of RF-modulated optical signals. The photodiode delivers a bandwidth of >40 GHz with a >0.65 A/W responsivity in a form factor as small as 14.9 x 9 x 9 mm and a mass of 8 grams.
• Critical design of microwave photonic and digital transceiver sub-system modules which will host the prototype photonic devices and will be assembled, integrated and tested during the final phase of the project.
SIPHODIAS has completed the second year of its lifetime which was predominantly focused on circuit manufacturing as well as assembly, integration and packaging of photonic modules. The next period will complete module-level environmental testing and system-level assembly, integration and test activities which will facilitate the clear benchmark against the state-of-the-art. The manufacturing activities that have been completed provide already an indication of the advancements that are expected by the SIPHODIAS photonic modules in terms of key functional and physical characteristics. Specifically progress is expected as follows:
• The OTRx IC chipset is expected to meet a power consumption target of <180 mW per channel which corresponds to an efficiency of 6.5 mW / Gb/s per channel.
• The OTRx module is the first hi-rel OTRx which is compatible with the COBO standard offering straightforward integration onto the host board in competitive module mass and PCB real state.
• The GaAs modulator has verified the capability to deliver bandwidths extending to 50 GHz within a small form factor package being in line with the project target to demonstrate an aggregate bandwidth per unit area of >7 GHz / cm2.
• The analogue photodetector has verified the capability to deliver a bandwidth of 40 GHz within a package that weighs ~8 grams and occupies an area of 1.34 cm2 corresponding to a bandwidth per unit area of ~26 GHz / cm2.
The achievement of these targets are fully in line with the project system objectives and the end-user roadmap as well as they constitute significant advancements in the application area of hi-rel digital and analog O/E modules. Within the third year of the project execution these targets will be verified through component-level evaluation testing as well as system-level assembly, integration and testing.
SIPHODIAS prototype microwave photonic modules: (left) 40 GHz analogue photodetector and (right) 40+
SIPHODIAS prototype space transceiver circuits and module: (left) SiGe BiCMOS transceiver integrated