Photonic Base 2

Project Summary


This proposal PHOTONIC Base II is a collaboration between ASTRON as prime with knowledge on the phased array antenna systems and photonic processing systems, LIONIX BV as component development partner and the University of Twente, Telecommunication Engineering (UT-TE) as the supplier of photonic systems knowledge. The goal of this project is study the use of photonic integrated circuit technologies for the signal processing in satellite payloads, such as for Telecommunication and Earth Observation.

This study can be considered to be an extension of the Photonic Base study, which is running until April 30, 2009. The Photonic Base study was intended to focus on beamforming networks in phased array antenna systems (PAA) for telecommunication. However, early after the start of the study (October 1, 2008) the results of a dedicated ESA workshop on Photonic Technologies end of November, made a reconsideration of this rather limited focus necessary. It was unanimously and definitively concluded that the Telecom ‘world’ is very reluctant to apply photonic technologies, not to mention micro-photonics. The background is a combination of factors (explained in the Project Definition in this proposal) which are difficult to get around. Therefore, it was suggested to look for weak points in the present RF micro-electronics architecture developments and not only on extra features of photonics which are not required now (but in the future are, such as broadband). Moreover, the application in PAA systems for Earth Observation appears to have less higher barriers for (micro-)photonics.

This is the background of a broader focus that is being taken in the current Photonic Base study (see preliminary report in the appendix). However, having more applications identified, the elaboration of each will require a bigger effort. As a consequence, the current Photonic Base study will result in a report including more application cases, however not elaborated as originally intented.

With these (combined) Photonic Base proposals the partners involved intend to prepare for future ESA work in this field. Although the Intended Invitation to Tender from ESA ‘Photonic LSI “System on a chip” for Communication Satellite Payloads’ (2006 – 2007) has been postponed (motivation: see above), the necessity to make a ‘roadmap’ is there because of the ESA roadmapping activities concerning Micro/Nano Technologies in general and of ‘RFMEMS’ en ‘MOEMS’ in particular, last year. These two microtechnologies can be considered to be competing technologies and it is important to stress the distinguished features of microphotonics in a high-level report. The ultimate objective is to initiate an ESA roadmapping activity on micro-photonics which is not unrealistic, taking into account the present developments world-wide.

The name of this project (series), Photonic Base, expresses the goal that the project partners have in their technology development for ESA, which concerns the development of a photonic base in the signal processing chain of PAA systems and related RF functions for Telecom and Earth Observation payloads.

After the identification and global assessment of a number of potential applications, including ones targeted on present weak points in present payloads, in this Photonic Base II study, the team will evaluate these opportunities more profound. Important input will be the, in the meantime completed, ESA roadmaps on RF-MEMS and MOEMS, in which the most promising applications of MNT in RF systems for Telecom, and to a lesser extent Earth Observation, are evaluated. Next to this, the information from the Intended ITTs in the ARTES workplan, identified to be relevant, will be valuable input. Based on the preceding systems study, in which the requirements and architecture of the RF systems and functions have been addressed, known photonic building blocks like Optical Delays and Switching Matrices, Filters, Active Interconnects etc. will be elaborated for the use in the systems/functions, but also the next generation building blocks, which are not yet available. Some general conceptual designs will be developed and the comparison with non-photonic solutions will be made.

The project will result in a roadmap report which will be used to focus further micro-photonics based developments in the Netherlands, with the objective to be applied in Telecom payloads ultimately, as this area will develop in a very interesting space (and commercial) market. In order to facilitate this, the complete final report including the work in both Photonic Base projects, will be presented to the ESA MNT roadmapping team based on people from ESA and Eurospace (i.e. R&D directors of TAS and EADS).


Participating TE members


· C.G.H. Roeloffzen


Project partners