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Newly-merged Coherent wins transceiver deal for DARPA’s Space-BACN program

15 Sep 2022

Recently acquired by II-VI and rebranded, firm also launches micro-pump lasers for broadband optical access networks.

Hot on the heels of II-VI announcing its rebranding to Coherent, after July’s successful completion of II-VI’s acquisition of Coherent, the newly-merged firm has announced a significant contract with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as well as the launch of a new communications laser.

Coherent’s DARPA contract is for the development of coherent optical transceiver technology for the agency’s Space-Based Adaptive Communications Node (Space-BACN) program. The terms and value of the contract were not disclosed.

The aim of Space-BACN is to develop low-cost, high-speed, reconfigurable, laser-based data links that will enable communications between various government and private-sector low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellations.

Various incompatible and often proprietary optical intersatellite links (OISLs) prevent LEO satellite arrays from readily sharing information, keeping proliferated space from reaching its full potential, says DARPA.

Coherent is specifically tasked with designing and fabricating coherent optical transceivers for a reconfigurable modem compatible with most existing single-wavelength communications protocols and able to readily adapt to work with new waveforms as they are introduced. The goal is to support multiple optical waveforms at total data rates of up to 100 Gbps on a single wavelength, while simultaneously meeting stringent size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) constraints.

Chris Koeppen, Coherent’s Chief Technology Officer, commented, “Advances in digital technology, together with falling launch costs, have made it possible for many groups to launch constellations of compact satellites possessing a multitude of capabilities, enabled by high-speed laser communications. “Beyond just defense applications, these satellite arrays offer tremendous potential for low-cost global communications, sensing, imaging, space exploration, and more,” he said.

Coherent launches I-Temp Micro-Pump laser

Coherent has also launched its I-Temp micro-pump lasers, which are specified for extended ambient temperature operation in broadband optical access networks.

The company this week stated, “growing demand for broadband services is bringing fiber-optic networks closer to subscribers, with environmentally hardened equipment deployed in uncontrolled ambient environments where space is constrained and the availability of power is strictly limited.”

The I-Temp micro-pump lasers operate over the extended temperature range of -40 to 85 degrees Celsius, enabling optical amplifiers deployed at the network edge to withstand extreme weather conditions.

Dr. Richard Smart, Senior VP of Coherent’s ROADM Business Unit, said, “The combination of small size, wide operating temperature, and low power consumption makes the I-Temp micro-pump a perfect solution for environmentally hardened optical amplifiers installed, for example, on utility poles. The I-Temp micro-pump leverages differentiated technology at every level of its vertically integrated design, including our GaAs semiconductor laser technology platform.”

The I-Temp micro-pumps maintain a steady output power of 400 mW with less than 2 W of power consumption and remain optimally wavelength-locked with a fiber Bragg grating, without the need for an internal cooler. They are available with 80 μm PM980 polarization-maintaining fibers and 125 μm HI 1060 bend-insensitive single-mode fibers. The firm will be exhibiting the new lasers at ECOC 2022, in Basel, Switzerland, between September 19-21, on booth #1.

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