Laser communications onboard CubeSats is an emerging technology for enabling high-speed space-based communication links. In this paper we present the development of a 25 cm<sup>3</sup> and second iteration 0.3 U CubeSat-class laser transmitter operating at data rates of up to 500 Mbps using OOK modulation and an output power of up to 300 mW over the entire C-band. We present results of the development and characterization of the transmitter. From this testing the design will be demonstrated up to TRL 4/5 with the view for future qualification work and electronics integration.
Optical laser communications (OLC) has been identified as the technology to enable high-data rate, secure links between and within satellites, as well as between satellites and ground stations with decreased mass, size, and electrical power compared to traditional RF technology.
Optical fiber amplifiers are key building blocks in laser communication terminals and telecom photonic payloads. In this paper we present 1.55μm booster amplifiers and pre-amplifiers suitable for satellite to ground, inter-satellite links and flexible photonic payloads. We validate the designs in the relevant space environment by characterizing the performance against ionizing radiation and report on functional performance of the amplifiers over temperature, in thermal vacuum and after vibration and mechanical shock.
We present results from our recent efforts on developing single-mode fused couplers in ZBLAN fibre. We have developed a custom fusion workstation for working with lower melting temperature fibres, such as ZBLAN and chalcogenide fibres. Our workstation uses a precisely controlled electrical heater designed to operate at temperatures between 100 – 250°C as our heat source. The heated region of the fibers was also placed in an inert atmosphere to avoid the formation of microcrystal inclusions during fusion. We firstly developed a process for pulling adiabatic tapers in 6/125 μm ZBLAN fibre. The tapers were measured actively during manufacture using a 2000 nm source. The process was automated so that the heater temperature and motor speed automatically adjusted to pull the taper at constant tension. This process was then further developed so that we could fuse and draw two parallel 6/125 μm ZBLAN fibres, forming a single-mode coupler. Low ratio couplers (1-10%) that could be used as power monitors were manufactured that had an excess loss of 0.76 dB. We have also manufactured 50/50 splitters and wavelength division multiplexers (WDMs). However, the excess loss of these devices was typically 2 - 3 dB. The increased losses were due to localised necking and surface defects forming as the tapers were pulled further to achieve a greater coupling ratio. Initial experiments with chalcogenide fibre have shown that our process can be readily adapted for chalcogenide fibres. A 5% coupler with 1.5 dB insertion loss was manufactured using commercial of the shelf (COTS) fibres.
Fibre lasers operating in the 2μm region are of increasing interest for a range of applications, including laser machining and biomedical systems. The large mode area compared to 1μm fibre lasers combined with operation in an “eye-safe” region of the spectrum makes them particularly attractive. When developing fibre lasers at 1μm and 1·5μm manufacturers were able to call upon enabling technologies used by the telecoms industry, but at longer wavelengths, including 2μm, many such components are either unavailable or immature. We report on recent developments of Acousto-Optic Modulators and Tunable Filters that are specifically optimised for use with fibre systems operating at or around 2μm. AO devices are interesting due to their ability to conserve spatial-coherence, making them appropriate for use with single-mode optical fibres. We describe how the choice of interaction medium is an important consideration, particularly affecting the drive power and the polarisation behaviour of the device – the latter being an important parameter when used in a fibre system. We also describe two designs of AO Tunable Filter intended for laser tuning. Both designs have been demonstrated intracavity in 2μm fibre lasers. The first gives exceptionally narrow resolution (δλ/λ<0·1%). The second design is of a novel type of AOTF where a matched pair of AOTFs is configured to give a substantially net zero frequency-shift with little or no loss of pointing stability, any minor deviations in manufacture being self-compensated. Furthermore, small controlled frequency-shifts (up to about 10kHz) may be introduced with little or no detriment to the alignment of the system.
In this paper, an overview of the EU FP7 project ISLA (Integrated disruptive componentS for 2 μm fibre Lasers) is given. The aim of ISLA was to develop a set of “building block” components and a “tool-kit” of processes to define an integrated modular common platform for two micron fibre lasers consisting of compatible and self-consistent active and passive fibres, fused fibre couplers and combiners, fibre-coupled isolators, modulators and high power pump laser diodes. We also present results from our work on developing passive components for 2 μm fibre lasers. This includes high power pump combiners that have been tested up to 0.5 kW and combiners for in-band pumping of holmium lasers. Couplers for use as splitters, power monitors and wavelength division multiplexers have also been demonstrated. Wideband couplers, with a coupling ratio that only varies ± 12% over 400 nm, have also been developed to exploit the wide tuning range possible with thulium fibre lasers. Research into different isolator materials was also conducted to find materials with large Verdet constants to be used in 2 μm isolators. Fibre-coupled isolators were then manufactured using a selection of these materials. Isolators that had insertion losses of < 1 dB and isolation of > 35 dB were demonstrated using PM and non-PM fibres. In the PM isolators, PER > 23 dB was achieved.
We present results from an all-fibre thulium laser system that can be tuned to any wavelength between 1710 – 2110 nm, without using any moving mechanical parts. An Acousto-Optic Tunable Filter (AOTF) is used as the tuning element, which allows for the wavelength to be tuned in ~ 20 μs. Core-pumped and cladding pumped thulium fibres are used to enable lasing action across the wavelength range. We use in-house fabricated fused fibre couplers and combiners that have a flattened coupling response with wavelength to allow for the system to be built in an all fibre design. These couplers have a coupling response that only varies by +/- 10% over the 400 nm operating range. The laser can output powers between 1-5 mW over 1710 – 2110 nm and has a linewidth of <0.2 nm. An Acousto-optic modulator is used as a switch on the output of the laser to switch the signal between core-pumped and cladding-pumped amplifier stages. This allows for the output signals to be amplified to ~1W levels.
The extension of supercontinuum (SC) sources into the mid-infrared, via the use of uoride and chalcogenide optical fibers, potentially offers the high radiance of a laser combined with spectral coverage far exceeding that of typical tunable lasers and comparable to traditional black-body emitters. Together with advances in mid-IR imaging detectors and novel tunable filter designs, such supercontinua hold considerable potential as sources of illumination for spectrally-resolved microscopy targeting applications such as rapid histological screening. The ability to rapidly and arbitrarily select particular wavelengths of interest from a broad emission spectrum, covering a wide range of biologically relevant targets, lends itself to image acquisition only at key relevant wavelengths leading to more manageable datasets. However, in addition to offering new imaging modalities, SC sources also present a range of challenges to successful integration with typical spectral microscopy instrumentation, including appropriate utilisation of their high spatial coherence. In this paper the application of SC sources to spectrally-resolved microscopy in the mid-IR is discussed and systems-integration considerations specific to these sources highlighted. Preliminary results in the 3-5μm region, obtained within the European FP7 project MINERVA, are also presented here.
We present results from the development of a dual channel Optical Fiber Amplifier (OFA) that consists of two copropagating low noise EDFAs at 1565 and 1545nm. The two channels have separate outputs but can also be combined via an optical switch to a common output channel for an increased output signal power. The OFA produces up to 35dB gain at low signal input powers and a total of over 350mW optical signal power combined from both EDFA channels with a 5mW signal input. The OFA was tested with input signals between 0.1 – 20 mW over the C-band and with pump power varying from 0 – 100% of the maximum operating pump power. The OFA module has total mass of 583 g including all electrical and optical components, as well as optical and electrical bulkheads, and a total module volume of 430 cm<sup>3</sup>. The module was also radiation tested via gamma irradiation up to 100 krad TID, validating the robustness of the optical amplifier against RIA effects and its suitability for LEO and GEO satellite missions.
We report on the development and testing of optical isolators for use in 2-micron fiber laser systems. A variety of potential Faraday rotator materials were characterised to identify the most suitable materials for use in the 1700-2100nm wavelength range. Isolators based on the three best performing materials were then developed and packaged as fiber-in, fiber-out and fiber-in, beam-out devices. The isolators were then tested in CW, pulsed and ultrafast laser systems. The three different designs produced different performance characteristics, but all designs demonstrated isolation >25dB and insertion losses of <1.2 dB.
We report on recent developments in fibre laser component technology for use in 2-micron laser systems. A
range of ‘building block’ components has been built to allow novel fibre laser architectures that exploit the
advantages of fibre lasers based on Thulium and Holmium active fibres. Fibre lasers operating around 2-microns
are becoming widely used in an increasing number of applications, which is driving the need for components
that can operate reliably at high powers and also integrate easily with other components. To that end, we have
designed and built a range of fused fibre, acousto-optic and magneto-optic devices that can be readily integrated
into a range of novel fibre laser systems.
Research has been carried out into improving fused fibre technology for components operating at 2um
wavelengths. Side-coupled feed through combiners have been developed with signal losses as low as 0.02dB
and kilowatt level end-coupled pump couplers. Alongside this a range of taps, splitters and WDMs have been
developed which allows for the implementation of a variety of laser architectures. Optical isolators based on
new Faraday materials have been developed, providing over 30dB isolation, low insertion loss and 30W power
handling in a fibre-in, fibre-out version. New cell designs and materials for Acousto-Optic devices have been
researched leading to the development of fibre-coupled Acousto-Optic Modulators (AOM) and allows for the
realisation of all fibre Thulium and Holmium Q-switched and pulsed fibre lasers. Novel Acousto-Optic Tunable
Filters (AOTF) designs have been realised to produce narrow resolution AOTFs and zero-shift AOTFs.