Space-compatible systems for satellite applications: Ferdinand-Braun-Institut at the 'Space Tech Expo Europe' (STEE) in Bremen, 19 - 21 November 2019

21. October 2019

Space-compatible systems for satellite applications

Ferdinand-Braun-Institut at the “Space Tech Expo Europe” (STEE) in Bremen, 19 - 21 November 2019

Aluminiumnitrid Power Core © FBH/P. Immerz

Aluminiumnitrid Power Core: the switching speed of gallium nitride power transistors can be increased with this newly developed device © FBH/P. Immerz

FBH has extensive experience in the development and fabrication of diode laser modules for space applications. These modules have repeatedly proven their capability in experiments carried out under zero-gravity conditions. For example, they facilitated the realization of a Bose-Einstein condensate and the first iodine-based optical frequency reference on board a sounding rocket. A central element of the laser modules are FBH’s laser diodes, which are integrated with optics and other passive elements with ultra-high stability and accuracy – in some cases well below 100 nm. Thanks to the institute’s unique micro-integration technique, the modules are extremely robust and thus ideally suited for operation in space. Moreover, they feature small dimensions of only 130 x 80 x 25 mm³, a mass of only 750 g, and excellent performance parameters – output powers exceed 500 mW with an intrinsic linewidth smaller than 1 kHz. In close cooperation with Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, these modules are used for integration into compact and stable laser systems for precision experiments in space. This cooperation is currently being expanded to cover further fields of integrated quantum technologies. Proof-of-concept demonstrators will be transferred from the laboratory into industrial solutions for application in quantum sensing, quantum communication, quantum simulation, and quantum computing. At its booth, FBH will present micro-integrated laser modules and a laser system that were successfully operated on a sounding rocket as part of the KALEXUS experiment.

Laser modules for satellites: from communications to climate protection

Further laser modules are developed by FBH for satellite applications. For many years, laser benches from the Ferdinand-Braun-Institut have been successfully used as pump sources in Tesat-Spacecom’s laser communication terminals. High data volumes originating from Earth observation can be transmitted particularly fast between satellites and to Earth with them. At its stand, FBH will be exhibiting a current pump laser designed for use on MERLIN. The climate satellite will measure methane concentrations in the atmosphere from 2024 onwards. The pump laser delivers an output power of more than 60 W in double pulses with a repetition rate of 20 Hz and a pulse width of 150 µs. Performance and reliability have been verified through extensive technology qualifications. Even with a long operation time of more than four billion pulses, the power degrades only insignificantly. Two of these lasers are then integrated into a module delivering a pumping power of 120 W.

Energy-efficient components for satellite communications and sensors

FBH researches further components for satellite applications in the field of microwave technology and power electronics. This includes a newly developed aluminum nitride high-speed power core that boosts the switching speed of gallium nitride power switching transistors in half-bridge configurations. Using this technology, turn-on and turn-off switching times can be reduced by typically 50%. The power core also features extremely compact hetero-integration and very low parasitic oscillation effects. It is suitable for space-compatible energy converters on satellites, transforming, for example, electricity generated by solar panels quickly and efficiently to different voltage levels required for various appliances. Power converters can thus be further miniaturized thanks to the higher conversion speed. A decisive advantage, since weight is key in space.

Energy consumption and dissipated power are further critical issues when operating power amplifiers in space. FBH presents concepts for envelope tracking (ET) – a well-proven technique for increasing the efficiency of solid-state power amplifiers, which modulate the supply voltage of the RF power amplifier in accordance to the instantaneous signal envelope. Together with the European Space Agency, FBH has developed a novel ET demonstrator at 1.62 GHz for communications in space. The amplifier has a peak output power of more than 90 W with a modulation bandwidth of 40 MHz. With an 8.6 PAPR (peak-to-average power ratio) signal, the overall efficiency reaches 40%.

FBH has also transferred the supply modulation concept to millimeter wave amplifiers. The corresponding module consists of two identical MMICs connected in series. Each consists of a single-stage amplifier with an integrated two-stage voltage switch that modulates the supply voltage of the amplifier in discrete levels. The module operates in the 20 - 26 GHz range with 14 dB gain and more than 2 W/mm at 20 V supply voltage.


Petra Immerz
Communications Manager

Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik
Gustav-Kirchhoff-Straße 4, 12489 Berlin

Tel. +49 30 6392-2626
Fax +49 30 6392-2602

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