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Project summary


The OPTIMA project aims to demonstrate the concept and benefits of a photonic payload for telecommunication satellites by joining the efforts of industrial and academic European actors from both the worlds of space and terrestrial communications.

In the near future, a major increase in telecommunication satellites capacity is required not only for them to address the challenges of the Digital Agenda for Europe, but also to remain in line with the skyrocketing evolution of terrestrial communications, in a globally connected world.

With the current RF technology, there is a more or less linear relationship between the size, the mass and the power consumption of telecommunications payloads and their capacity. This means that without a major technological breakthrough, the capacity objectives cannot be met within the envelope allowed by the foreseen evolution of launchers (Ariane 6, Falcon 9 …) and satellite platforms (Eurostar Neo).

Photonics, the science of light (photon) generation, detection, and manipulation, has largely contributed to the revolution on Information Technology for ground applications and is the most promising technology to overcome the issues faced by telecommunications satellites, thanks to the compact, lightweight and low power nature of optical‐fibre based equipment.

However, a great sum of efforts is required to bring these benefits to the world of telecommunication payloads as all the photonics equipment used in ground applications need to be adapted to endure the mechanical vibrations during launch and survive for 15 years in the harsh environment of a geo‐stationary orbit (vacuum, thermal excursion, radiations).

In the OPTIMA project, Airbus Defence and Space, a European and world‐leading satellite prime manufacturer, will define, assemble and test photonic payload demonstrator based on building blocks developed and adapted for space but also provided by other members of the consortium. DAS Photonics and Cordon will focus their efforts on integrating and miniaturizing Photonics Frequency Generator Units, Electrical‐to‐Optical and Optical‐to‐Electrical Converters. Sodern and Imec</b>Polatis, a major player in fibre optics connectivity equipment for ground applications.

By gathering all these actors around a concrete project, in a real‐world industrial environment, the OPTIMA project will provide a strong initial impulse to make photonics technology available to the space telecommunications industry and pave the way towards an in‐orbit demonstration as early as 2020. The availability of this technology will not only allow the European space industry to address the challenges of the Digital Agenda for Europe 2020, but also strengthen its position in a very competitive, worldwide market.

In addition, the network of partners activated through OPTIMA will create new opportunities for each of them, such as new line of products for space equipment suppliers like Sodern and DAS photonics, new fields of applications for technology experts such as Imec and Cordon and new potential markets for terrestrial communications equipment suppliers such as Polatis.