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G&H have won a 2MEuro ESA contract to develop the next generation of optical amplifiers that will enable multi-Tbit/s free space optical communication links (FSOC) between satellites and ground-stations.
Current high-speed communication is based on the encoding of data in laser light that is sent through fiber optic networks laid across the surface of the planet, and under its oceans. In FSOC light is transmitted in laser beams through the atmosphere or the vacuum of space, removing the need for long distance fiber optic networks. As these laser beams propagate in straight lines, networks of satellites will be used to relay data from around the Earth’s curvature, before transmission back to ground stations.
G&H has long been known for its HI-REL couplers that are an essential part of undersea fiber optic networks. We have now also long been part of the FSOC revolution, notably designing optical amplifiers for the JAXA LUCAS mission that in 2020 demonstrated a world-first Gbit/s optical link between a satellite and a ground station. To satisfy global data demands, however, data rates must reach multi Tbit/s levels. This will require multiple technological advances including a new range of optical amplifiers that far exceed the current state-of-the-art, and can support these very high data rates.
Project EPOS (Extremely Powerful Optical Sources), will develop two different amplifier systems, one for use terrestrially and one for use in space. The amplifiers will support 25 channels emitting 1000 W (terrestrial) and 100 W (space) of diffraction limited light in the optical C and L bands. These power levels far exceed the few Watts level employed on LUCAS.
The project is part of and funded by, the ESA Scylight framework, and will commence immediately – running for 30 months. G&H is the sole entity on the project with all systems being designed and produced in our world-leading optical integration facility in Torquay, Devon (UK).
Quote from Matt Welch – Chief Engineer Fiber Optic Systems:
“The award of this contract is in recognition of G&H’s heritage and world-leading expertise in fiber optical systems, and in particular optical amplifiers for free space optical communications.
With the development of commercial FSOC, we will see a paradigm shift in how data links are created across our planet; constellations of satellites and grounds stations will create a web of laser beams encircling the planet with data.
These webs, unlike fiber optical networks, will be rapidly reconfigurable and can be quickly deployed over long distances – enabling a new generation of communication. Through Project EPOS, G&H will be enabling this paradigm shift and will cement its position as a world leader in this market.”
If you are visiting Photonics West, do come along to our booth, no. 949, to meet us and find out more about this project and application.