The Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP) supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) has a goal of developing various launch vehicle system concepts and identifying the technologies required for the design of Europe's Next-Generation Launcher (NGL) while maintaining competitiveness on the commercial market. Avionics fiber optic sensing technology was investigated as part of the FLPP programme.
Here we demonstrate and evaluate a high speed hybrid electrical/optical data acquisition system based on commercial off the shelf (COTS) technology capable of acquiring data from traditional electrical sensors and optical Fibre Bragg Grating (FBG) sensors. The proposed system consists of the KAM-500 data acquisition system developed by Curtis-Wright and the I4 tunable laser based fiber optic sensor interrogator developed by FAZ Technology. The key objective was to demonstrate the capability of the hybrid system to acquire data from traditional electrical sensors used in launcher applications e.g. strain, temperature and pressure in combination with optical FBG sensors, as well as data delivery to spacecraft avionics systems. The KAM-500 was configured as the main acquisition unit (MAU) and provided a 1 kHz sampling clock to the I4 interrogator that was configured as the secondary acquisition unit (SAU) to synchronize the data acquisition sample rate between both systems. The SAU acquired data from an array of optical FBG sensors, while the MAU data acquisition system acquired data from the electrical sensors.
Data acquired from the optical sensors was processed by the FAZ I4 interrogation system and then encapsulated into UDP/IP packets and transferred to the KAM-500. The KAM-500 encapsulated the optical sensor data together with the data acquired from electrical sensors and transmitted the data over MIL-STD-1553 and Ethernet data interface. The temperature measurements resulted in the optical and electrical sensors performing on a par with each other, with all sensors recording an accuracy within 0.35% FS over the full temperature range of -70°C to +180°C. The pressure measurements were performed over a 0 to 5 bar absolute pressure range and over different temperatures across a -40°C to +80°C range. The tests concluded that the optical pressure sensors performed on par with the electrical pressure sensor for each temperature set, where both sensor technologies measured a pressure accuracy of 1.2% FS. As for the strain measurements, the results show the optical and electrical sensors can measure to within 1% FS (Full Scale) of measurement range ±1,200 μstrain.
The proposed hybrid system can be potentially used for next generation launcher applications delivering weight reduction, improvement in measurement coverage and reduction in Assembly, Integration and Testing (AIT) over traditional electrical systems.
Recently optical sensing solutions based on fiber Bragg grating (FBG) technology have been proposed for temperature monitoring in telecommunication satellite platforms with an operational life time beyond 15 years in geo-stationary orbit. Developing radiation hardened optical interrogators designed to be used with FBG sensors inscribed in radiation tolerant fibers offer the capabilities of multiplexing multiple sensors on the same fiber and reducing the overall weight by removing the copper wiring harnesses associated with electrical sensors.
Here we propose the use of a tunable laser based optical interrogator that uses a semiconductor MG-Y type laser that has no moving parts and sweeps across the C-band wavelength range providing optical power to FBG sensors and optical wavelength references such as athermal Etalons and Gas Cells to guarantee stable operation of the interrogator over its targeted life time in radiation exposed environments. The MG-Y laser was calibrated so it remains in a stable operation mode which ensures that no mode hops occur due to aging of the laser, and/or thermal or radiation effects.
The key optical components including tunable laser, references and FBGs were tested for radiation tolerances by emulating the conditions on a geo-stationary satellite including a Total Ionizing Dose (TID) radiation level of up to 100 krad for interrogator components and 25 Mrad for FBGs.
Different tunable laser control, and signal processing algorithms have been designed and developed to fit within specific available radiation hardened FPGAs to guarantee operation of a single interrogator module providing at least 1 sample per second measurement capability across <20 sensors connected to two separate optical channels.
In order to achieve the required temperature specifications of ±0.5°C across a temperature range of -20°C to +65°C using femtosecond inscribed FBGs (fs-FBG), a polarization switch is used to mitigate for the polarization dependent frequency shift (PDFS) induced from fs-FBG which could be in the order of < 20 pm causing < 2°C error in the measurement. Also special transducers were designed to isolate the strain from the FBGs to reduce any strain influence on the FBG temperature measurements while ensuring high thermal conductivity.
In this paper we demonstrate the operation of an optical FBG interrogator as part of a hybrid sensor bus (HSB) engineering model system developed in the frame of an ESA-ARTES program and is planned to be deployed as a flight demonstrator on-board the German Heinrich Hertz geo-stationary satellite.
Optical sensors based on Fiber Bragg Gratings (FBGs) are used in several applications and industries. In order for fiber optic sensors to compete with electrical sensors, several critical parameters of both the sensors and sensor interrogators need to be in place such as performance, cost, size, reliability relevant to the target application. Here we have developed a tunable laser based optical interrogator which delivers high performance (up to 8kHz sweep-rate and 120dB dynamic range) and precision (<100fm) by optimizing the laser calibration of a telecom tunable laser and incorporating optical periodic wavelength references (e.g. MZI) to correct and compensate for wavelength non-linearity and noise during operation. Scaling up optical sensing systems to deliver high level of performance over a large number of sensors is enabled by synchronizing multiple interrogators. Further improvements can be achieved by using photonic integrated circuit (PIC) technology which reduces the footprint, cost, and improves performance. There exists several PIC technology platforms (e.g. InP, Si, TriPlex) that could be used to develop different optical building blocks used in the interrogator. Such building blocks include the tunable laser, couplers, photodiodes, MZIs, etc. are available on the InP platform. Here we have demonstrated the operation of an interrogator using PIC technology to replace many of the discrete optical components. The design and chip manufacturing was carried out as part of an InP multi-project wafer (MPW) run under the EU PARADIGM project. A custom package supporting fiber arrays was designed and manufactured to demonstrate the PIC functionality in an optical interrogator.
Optical sensors based on Fiber Bragg Gratings (FBGs) are used in several applications and industries. Several inscription techniques and type of fibers can be used. However, depending on the writing process, type of fiber used and the packaging of the sensor a Polarization Dependent Frequency Shift (PDFS) can often be observed with polarized tunable laser based optical interrogators. Here we study the PDFS of the FBG peak for the different FBG types. A PDFS of <1pm up to >20pm was observed across the FBGs. To mitigate and reduce this effect we propose a polarization mitigation technique which relies on a synchronous polarization switch to reduce the effect typically by a factor greater than 4. In other scenarios the sensor itself is designed to be birefringent (Bi-FBG) to allow pressure and/or simultaneous temperature and strain measurements. Using the same polarization switch we demonstrate how we can interrogate the Bi-FBGs with high accuracy to enable high performance of such sensors to be achievable.
In order for fiber optic sensors to compete with electrical sensors, several critical parameters need to be addressed such as performance, cost, size, reliability, etc. Relying on technologies developed in different industrial sectors helps to achieve this goal in a more efficient and cost effective way. FAZ Technology has developed a tunable laser based optical interrogator based on technologies developed in the telecommunication sector and optical transducer/sensors based on components sourced from the automotive market. Combining Fiber Bragg Grating (FBG) sensing technology with the above, high speed, high precision, reliable quasi distributed optical sensing systems for temperature, pressure, acoustics, acceleration, etc. has been developed. Careful design needs to be considered to filter out any sources of measurement drifts/errors due to different effects e.g. polarization and birefringence, coating imperfections, sensor packaging etc. Also to achieve high speed and high performance optical sensing systems, combining and synchronizing multiple optical interrogators similar to what has been used with computer/processors to deliver super computing power is an attractive solution. This path can be achieved by using photonic integrated circuit (PIC) technology which opens the doors to scaling up and delivering powerful optical sensing systems in an efficient and cost effective way.