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Trumpf prepares VCSELs for space mission lift off in 2027

30 Aug 2022

As part of Germany's Qyro project; first satellite controlled by quantum sensing technology.

Trumpf Photonic Components (TPC) is developing a high-power, single-mode VCSEL designed to be implemented in an altitude gyroscope sensor for use in space. In 2027, the satellite with the quantum-based gyroscope is scheduled to launch into space to generate highly precise attitude determination.The core component of the sensor will be a VCSEL light source. As miniaturization and robustness are essential for the application, the very small and durable VCSELs are suitable for this purpose. Compared to existing laser solutions, VCSELs can be designed that are several orders of magnitude smaller and at significantly lower cost.

The proposed single-mode VCSEL will feature stable polarization and a narrow bandwidth to address the high precision needed in the quantum sensor.

Berthold Schmidt, CEO at TPC, commented, “It’s great to be part of the subsidy project, and to combine various fields of expertise, push for innovations and strengthen Germany as a photonics hub.” The sensors enable the satellites to be aligned with each other with high precision and thus enable a high-speed connection for data communication.

“We can’t wait to see our VCSEL integrated into a mini satellite, to support worldwide high-quality data communication and to improve the availability of internet connections especially in remote regions,” said Schmidt.

How VCSELs support quantum applications

Quantum technology can ensure long-term measurement stability, provide high performance in a small space, and reduce weight, says Trumpf. This not only allows satellites to hold their position precisely for years, but also supports other spectroscopic applications and atomic clocks.

The company is developing a single-mode VCSEL with an 10mW output at at 795 nm. This is ten times higher than the laser power this technology was able to offer previously. The VCSEL also delivers the required stability over a wide range of temperatures and robustness demanded by space usage.

The breakthrough in compactness and cost enabled by the VCSEL technology will also open up more applications in mass markets, says the firm: precise gyroscopes could be used in industry, logistics or even in autonomously driving cars.

The subsidy project called QYRO has an overall development budget of around 28 million euros and is supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany. TPC is working closely with the Ferdinand Braun Institute, Leibniz Institute for High Frequency Technology, one of the world's most renowned research institutes for laser diodes.

The partners are jointly developing the VCSELs with high spectral purity that also meet the demands of quantum technology and space. Another Trumpf subsidiary based in Berlin will integrate the VCSEL component into a robust, miniaturized TO package with additional optics and temperature stabilization.

Altogether, there are five project partners, each bringing their own specializations, such as Bosch, that is developing a miniaturized, space-compatible measuring cell. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) will ensure the suitability for space within in QYRO project and is responsible for transporting the satellite into space. The quantum technology start-up Q.ANT is leading the development partnership and assembling the various components of the sensor.

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