Phlux aims for 10Gbit/s optical links in space

Phlux aims for 10Gbit/s optical links in space

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Phlux Technology is working with Airbus Defence and Space and the University of Sheffield on satellite terminals with free space optical communications (FSOC).

The €500,000 project for the European Space Agency (ESA) aims to achieve 2.5 Gbit/s optical communications with Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites at 1550 nm wavelength. These satellites orbit the earth at heights of up to 2000 km (1,200 miles). A longer-term aim is to produce links that will operate at 10 Gbit/s.

The Phlux Noiseless InGaAs avalanche photodiodes (APDs) are used as infrared sensors in the FSOC receivers and are expected to deliver 6 dBm more link budget than traditional InGaAs APDs operating at 1550 nm. This means that they can detect much lower signal levels, enabling faster and higher bandwidth links with low latency to be developed. It also means that the performance can be maintained for longer periods because link integrity is maintained over a wider angle as the satellite passes overhead.

One of the key technical challenges with FSOC is that the infrared signals used to transmit data are diffracted as they pass through the variations in the atmosphere. This is addressed by developing a large area, high sensitivity APD to produce a wider receptor.

A radiation-hard detector module for the satellites being developed in this project has other potential applications including space debris monitoring, greenhouse gas detection, and space navigation.

“This project is an endorsement of the value of our patented APD technology developed at The University of Sheffield,” said Ben White, CEO of Phlux Technology. “With more than an order-of-magnitude improvement in sensitivity over traditional devices, we offer the enabling component that makes other technology breakthroughs possible. Higher performance FSOC links are a perfect example and it’s exciting to be working with such prestigious organisations as ESA and Airbus Defence and Space.”

Ludovic Blarre, leading the Airbus Space Systems optical communication roadmap said, “The availability of APD products at 1550 nm for optical communication with sensitivities close to those of fibered low noise optical amplifiers could be a game changer for the development of cost-effective laser terminals and optical ground stations. This will be an enabler for the rapid development of optical communication in satellites for direct-to-earth applications and inter-satellite links with data rates below 10Gbps. Our team is delighted to work with Phlux Technology and the University of Sheffield towards this goal and to carry out irradiation tests on their patented APD technology.”

The first phase of the project runs until the end of September 2025.


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