Deep space optical link demonstrator

Design, building and testing of an optical link demonstrator for deep space communication. The activity will include the terminals and the laboratory test for the propagation conditions.

The main objective of this project is to develop a demonstrator of an optical link for communication between a space probe and an Earth station. In 2003, CONTRAVES SPACE carried out a feasibility study for the ESA (European Space Agency) that investigated the 'Assessment of the Feasibility of an Optical Link for Deep Space Mission'. As a result, it turned out that state-of-the-art technology could be used to increase deep space telemetry rates by one order of magnitude when using optical telemetry links. The latter would lead to a considerable increase of science data returned from deep space missions and it would also allow for data post-processing on the ground, using much better work station software than possible with today's on-board data processing capabilities of deep space probes. The need for enhanced telemetry and the usefulness of the optical telemetry approach was acknowledged at the European TT&C (Tracking, Telemetry & Command) Workshop in 2004 at ESOC, Darmstadt, GERMANY. Producing the required optical transponder for deep space optical telemetry requires several development activities that verify the achievable performance on a breadboard level by using state-of-the-art components. To overcome huge link distances of millions of kilometres, the optical telemetry transponder will have to make use of advanced modulation/demodulation techniques based on Pulse-Position-Modulation schemes (PPM). The latter will rely on state-of-the-art laser sources and detectors, but will also require novel approaches for achieving the required detection sensitivities on the ground and for reaching the required pulse peak power and extinction ratio on board the deep space probe. Experience in Europe with using PPM for space applications is rather limited and in fact barely exists. One major issue to be looked at is therefore the communication subsystem. A hardware demonstrator will be set up and will include a simulated on-board deep space transmitter, a communications channel that includes deep space and Earth atmosphere, and finally a ground station receiver for detecting the faint pulses sent from the transmitter. The project team comprises two industrial partners (ADTELECOM and CONTRAVES SPACE AG) and one university (UPC in Barcelona). The project is divided into two main phases, a definition phase and an implementation phase. Project Management will be carried out by CONTRAVES SPACE. The definition of system requirements, interface specifications and tests is to be provided by CONTRAVES SPACE. This is based on their experience gained during the feasibility study carried out for the ESA on deep space optical telemetry transponders. After the definition phase is finalised, the hardware implementation phase can start. This phase comprises the implementation of two dedicated subsystems, one electrical and one optical, and a mutual interface testing phase. Implementation work is to be shared among ADTELECOM, UPC and CONTRAVES SPACE. ADTELECOM will produce the electrical part of the ground receiver and on-board transmitter modulator. UPC will implement the Optical Bench subsystem comprising optical path loss, atmospheric effects on the received intensity and the receiver detector for opto-electrical conversion. CONTRAVES SPACE will deliver key hardware components and subsystems according to the requirements specified in the definition phase. In addition, CONTRAVES will carry out FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) programming tasks required for digital communications. The implementation phase is to be concluded by a demonstrator test in the optical terminal test facilities at CONTRAVES SPACE premises in SWITZERLAND. Keywords: deep space communication, optical link, terminal.
Project ID: 
3 682
Start date: 
Project Duration: 
Project costs: 
290 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Satellite Technology / Systems / Positioning / Communication
Market Area: 
Airlines, Aircrafts, Aerospace

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