eagleyard in SPACE our Components reaching out for the stars

More and more DFB Laser Diodes are replacing other types of lasers because they are small, robust, and reliable. This is especially important for space projects.

A semiconductor laser diode is the ideal candidate for harsh operating conditions. Compact and robust as they are they withstand even extreme environmental conditions. And all this coming with much less weight than all the bulky approaches of external cavity or solid state lasers.

As a consequence our DFB Laser Diodes are successfully used in space programs of NASA and ESA where they have been tested in comprehensive qualification tests according to MIL, ESCC, or Telcordia standards. For instance, two DFB 852 nm Laser Diodes are used for the GAIA mission of ESA. Combining two lasers in an iterferometric setup guarantees the precise and sustaining alignment of two telescopes in Orbit.

Stellar Density Map (image: ESA)

GAIA - ESA Mission (2013)

The construction of the largest and most precise 3D space catalog ever made

GAIA is an ambitious mission to chart a three-dimensional map of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, in the process revealing the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy. GAIA will provide unprecedented positional measurements for about one billion stars – about 1 per cent of the Galactic stellar population – in our Galaxy and Local Group, together with radial velocity measurements for the brightest 150 million objects (source: sci.esa.int).

Mission Duration: 5 years - 24/7

Telescope Design (image: ESA/Astrium)

GAIA contains two identical telescopes, pointing in two directions separated by a 106.5° basic angle and merged into a common path at the exit pupil. The optical path of both telescopes is composed of six reflectors, the last two of which are common. Both telescopes have an aperture of 1.45m × 0.5m and a focal length of 35m. The telescope elements are built around the hexagonal optical bench with a ~3m diameter, which provides the structural support (source: sci.esa.int).

BAM System (image: GAIA in UK) and Mirror Integration (image: Sagem/FR)

Two Laser Diodes from German company eagleyard Photonics have been installed on GAIA, the European Space Agency's billion-star surveyor spacecraft. The single-frequency DFB-852 Laser Diodes in a 14-pin butterfly housing are responsible for keeping GAIA’s two telescopes in the right position so it can continue to create the most accurate 3D map of the Milky Way galaxy ever produced.

The DFB-852 Laser Diodes contain a wavelength-selective grating integrated in the laser chip. They operate on a single resonator mode emitting quasi-monochromatic radiation with a very small linewidth and low phase noise. The lasers harbour a very low-intensity noise due to the lack of mode partition noise (source: Electro Optics).

852 nm DFB Laser Diode as light source for the interferometric setup responsible for the alignment of the two telescopes

An extended qualification program has proven the quality of a previously evaluated semiconductor Laser Diode, which is intended to be used in a subsystem for the GAIA mission. We report on results of several reliability tests performed in subgroups. The requirements of the procurement specification with respect to reliability and desired manufacturing processes were confirmed. This is an example for successful collaboration between component supplier, system integrator and payload responsible party.

eagleyard at International Conference on Space Optics Conference, Greece 2010

GAIA launched successfully end of 2013 and is in service since 2014.

GAIA Launch Vision (image: ESA)

For more information and latest news on GAIA, follow-on at Twitter:

Far Above The Clouds (image: NASA GSFC)

CATS - NASA Mission (2015)

The International Space Station (ISS) is an ideal platform to conduct many scientific research projects from the space, including the remote sensing of the Earth’s atmosphere. One [..] is the Cloud Aerosol Transport System (CATS). CATS is a lidar remote sensing instrument designed to provide measurements of atmospheric clouds and aerosol properties. It will continue the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) data record, provide observational lidar data to improve operational modeling programs, and demonstrate the direct lidar retrieval of aerosol extinction from space. (source: Fibertek)

Mission Duration: 0.5 - 3 years

Launched to the ISS in January 2015, CATS is specifically intended to demonstrate a low-cost, streamlined approach to developing ISS science payloads. The CATS mission extends the data record of space-based aerosol and cloud measurements to ensure the continuity of lidar climate observation.

Cloud Aerosole Transport System on ISS (images: NASA)

The first laser transmitter delivers two laser outputs at 1064 nm and 532 nm (2nd harmonic of 1064 nm), and operates at a 5 KHz repetition rate. The second laser transmitter delivers three laser outputs at 1064 nm, 532 nm and 355 nm (2nd and 3rd harmonics of 1064 nm) and operates at 4 KHz with injection seeding to achieve singlemode operation.

Color Mixing by Frequency Conversion (image: NASA)

A single mode laser seeder is a critical component to achieve the injection seeding and single-mode operation of Laser 2 to meet the CATS – ISS payload operation requirement and mission life. We selected a DFB single mode Laser from eagleyard Photonics of Germany as the seeder. The DFB laser has a standard 14 pin butterfly package with built-in Thermo Electric Cooler (TEC) to maintain the emission wavelength stability and PM fiber for polarization coupling. The center emission wavelength was 1064 nm with a typical spectral linewidth of 2 MHz (FWHM). The DFB laser was capable of delivering 40 mW of single mode laser at the nominal drive current of 110 mA. This model of DFB laser was built based on space qualified processes. It has passed proton radiation test, thermal, shock and vibration tests, etc. The extrapolated lifetime is beyond 2 years of continuous operation, which is within the CATS – ISS payload mission duration expectation for the injection seeding demonstration (source: Fibertek).

1064 nm DFB Laser Diode as seed source for amplification and conversion into 3 major colors.

CATS launched aboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on Jan. 10, 2015, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

CATS 1064 nm Total Attenuated Backscatter Signal (image: NASA)
The Blue Sky Is The Limit (image: DLR)

MERLIN - DLR/CNES Mission (2021)

In 2021, the French-German MERLIN satellite (Methane Remote Sensing Lidar Mission) will go into Earth orbit to measure concentrations of atmospheric methane with unprecedented precision and thus better understand the sources of this greenhouse gas playing a key role in global warming (source: CNES)

Mission duration: 3 years

To accomplish this mission, MERLIN will be relying on its Methane Integrated Path Differential Absorption (IPDA) lidar, which will fire laser beams towards Earth’s surface and then analyse the signal bounced back to deduce the amount of methane in the sounded atmospheric column (source: CNES)

ILT Aachen / CNES

Laser diode developer eagleyard Photonics has been assigned by SpaceTech to deliver space-qualified distributed feedback (DFB) seed laser diodes for [the] Franco-German small satellite mission.

1064 nm and 1645 nm DFB Laser Diodes will be the space-qualified seed sources for the amplification stages respectively

eagleyard Photonics is set to deliver the DFB seed laser diodes at 1064 and 1645nm for the whole program — as well as for the corresponding qualification campaign, including the second generation of engineering models in 2017, the qualification models and the flight models in 2018. SpaceTech is the responsible contractor for the frequency reference-unit of the lidar instrument of the entire mission program (source: Photonics Media)

MERLIN Operational Vision (image: CNES)
The Coldest Spot in the Universe (image: NASA JPL)

NASA/JPL Cold Atom Lab on ISS (2018)

The quest for ever colder temperatures has been a major theme of physics for over a century, leading to such breakthroughs as the discovery of superfluidity and superconductivity, and more recently, to the development of laser cooling techniques. All matter has both a wave aspect and a particle aspect. At high temperatures atoms behave as particles. At very cold temperatures the wave nature becomes more pronounced. At the critical temperature and density, the wavelengths of the atoms overlap. Below this temperature, most of the atoms share the same macroscopic wave function. The microgravity environment of ISS enables the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) laser cooling technology to reach temperatures colder than ever achieved on Earth, and to therefore analyze atom wave functions never observed. CAL research findings will facilitate the development of future ultra-cold atom-based quantum sensors for gravitational and magnetic fields, rotations, and tests of the equivalence principle.

(image: NASA JPL)

The CAL is a compact, atom-chip based apparatus, capable of trapping both Rubidium (87Rb) and Potassium (either 40K or 41K), and of producing degenerate gases of each species after a few seconds of collection and cooling. The atom chip approach is chosen because of power and volume constraints, though for many applications, transfers the atoms into either a weak trap away from the chip, or into an optical lattice.

Schematic of the CAL laser system for dual-species MOT operation, state preparation, and absorption imaging. Laser light is sourced from external cavity diode lasers (ECDL), with a reference laser for each species, labeled (a) for K and (d) for Rb, locked to an atomic line via frequency modulated spectroscopy (FMS). The potassium cooling (b) and repump (c) light is amplified in the same tapered amplifier (TA), where we have observed no intensity fluctuations from potential mode competition. For rubidium, only the cooling light (e) seeds the 780 nm TA, with the Rb repump laser output (f) propagating without amplification. (source: npj Microgravity 4, 16 (2018))

The optical distribution system of CAL, on the ground and in flight, is based on commercially available lasers and components to create an all optical fiber-based distribution system (Fig. 4). We operate one laser system for both bosonic potassium isotopes at 766.701 nm, and an additional system for 87Rb at 780.24 nm. Laser cooling light is sourced by external cavity diode lasers (New Focus Vortex Plus) with a ruggedized design for flight.

Gain Chips are modified Fabry-Perot Laser Diodes with an excellent AR coated output facet. While not self-lasing they are intended to be operated in External Cavity Diode Laser setups (ECDL), such as in Littman or Littrow configuration. With external feedback they reveal narrow single frequency operation in combination with superior tuning capabilities.

For each atomic element, we use three separate lasers and a tapered amplifier (TA, New Focus TA-7600). One reference laser is stabilized to a temperature-controlled vapor cell module (Vescent D2-210) via saturated absorption spectroscopy. The other two lasers are stabilized via frequency offset locks to the D2 cooling and repump transitions. In addition to the lasers’ internal isolators, a pigtailed isolator from Thorlabs provides another 30 dB of isolation from any light back-coupled downstream of the TA input. Both TA outputs are distributed via fiber splitters and switches, providing light for 2D- and 3D- MOTs, absorption imaging, and optical pumping. All frequency adjustments are made by controlling the relative frequencies of the offset locks. While these TAs are capable of outputs up to 0.5 W, they are set to operate between 250 mW and 400 mW, for K and Rb, respectively.

Tapered Amplifier combine excellent beam with highest output power from a single emitter. Their monolithic design comprises a single-mode ridge waveguide section with a tapered structure. They are the first choice for Master Oscillator Power Amplifier setups, inheriting all properties of a seed source.
The Coolest Experiment in the Universe (image: NASA)
EXO Mars 2016 approaching its destination (image: ESA)

EXO Mars (2016)

The main objectives of this mission are to search for evidence of methane and other trace atmospheric gases that could be signatures of active biological or geological processes and to test key technologies in preparation for ESA's contribution to subsequent missions to Mars.

The TIRVIM Fourier-spectrometer, sensitive to the thermal infrared band, is part of the Atmospheric Chemistry Suite (ACS) instrument. TIRVIM includes three detectors and is designed to operate in several modes: solar occultation, and nadir observations during daytime and night time. Its main scientific goal is to monitor temperature profiles and measure aerosol content during nadir observations.

Atmospheric Chemistry Suite: TIRVIM Spectrometer (image: ESA)

The heart of the TIRVIM instrument is the interferometer with a double-pendulum arm length of 13 centimeters, a KBr beam splitter and compensator 8.8cm in diameter and 12mm thick. A reference channel is created by a laser diode operating at a wavelength of 760 nanometers measured by a Silicon photodiode detector (source: Spaceflight 101)

The 760 nm DFB Laser with hermetically sealed 14 Pin Butterfly Package is used in the TIRVIM Fourier-spectrometer, sensitive to the thermal infrared band
TIRVIM Optical Design (image: ESA/Roscosmos/ExoMars/ACS/IKI)

On 19 October 2016, the Trace Gas Orbiter was inserted into an elliptical orbit around Mars ... ready to conduct its scientific mission, starting in March 2018

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Created By
Thomas Laurent

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