APPLICATIONS OF PHOTONICS IN SPACE

The Europeans are just beginning to think of applications of photonics in space. There are generally two types of applications: transmission (and, in the far term, processing) of digital data and microwave analog distribution and processing.

In the digital area, Matra is designing a space-qualified 100 Mbits/sec fiber distributed data interface (FDDI) network for the space station COLUMBUS. The project depends on the continuity of funding for the Space Station program. There is nothing particularly high-tech about this simple ring network. Space qualification is the biggest task. Since the space qualification of similar technology is occurring for the SILEX Program, there is little risk that this system cannot be realized.

In the microwave area, the only effort is a cross-bar switch for multiple beam antennas being developed at MBB. This is a simple application of photonics and is a sensible first step.

It is apparent that there is not really a big concerted effort of applying photonics in space in Europe. However, there is a strong technology base for ground-based systems in the telecommunications areas at, for example, a company like British Telecom. With its space qualification experience in the SILEX program, space qualifying these ground-based technologies will be an easy step.


Published: July 1993; WTEC Hyper- Librarian