Sunday, April 16, 2023

EU's Project VERTIGO demos optical links for geostationary satellites

The VERTIGO (Very High Throughput Satellite-Ground Optical link) project successfully demonstrated a high-power optical data transmission system at the Thales laboratory in Palaiseau, France. 

Thales Alenia Space, Thales, G&H and Leo Space Photonics R&D demonstrated the generation and transmission of optical communication signals carrying data at 25 Gbps in a controlled environment at a record breaking optical power of 97 W opening the way to 100W-class transmissions. This was achieved by splitting a modulated optical signal into two paths, each amplified through an individual state-of-the-art G&H high power amplifier, and then coherently combining the two amplifier outputs. This was an opportunity not only to demonstrate high and very high optical power generation but also to prove the possibility to transmit telecom signals at very high power while maintaining data integrity, a necessary condition for use in free-space optical links over long distances.

Following the outdoor trials of free-space optical links in Summer 2022, which notably demonstrated a record transmission at 1 Tbps over an atmospheric optical path of 53 km, the laboratory test campaign performed in Thales facilities concludes the VERTIGO project with a new record.

The partners said VERTIGO has shown that future geostationary communication satellites using optical feeder links are feasible.

Capitalizing on the results of the VERTIGO project, the next step will be to target a full-scale coherent laser link between a geostationary satellite at an altitude around 36.000 km and a ground station.

VERTIGO is a H2020 collaborative project funded by the EU, launched on June 1st 2019 and completed at the beginning of 2023. The project consortium was composed of CREONIC GmbH, ETH Zürich, Fraunhofer HHI, G&H, LEO Space Photonics R&D, ONERA, Thales Alenia Space in France and Switzerland and Thales Research & Technology.

Kepler Communications raises $92M for optical satellite

Kepler Communications, a start-up based in Toronto, announced US$92 million in Series C funding to support its mission to "build the Internet for space."

Kepler said it will use the funding to launch an optical data relay infrastructure in 2024, complementing its existing RF network. Kepler’s optical communications infrastructure will use two near-orthogonal planes of relay satellites in sun-synchronous orbits, with satellites in each plane continuously connected using SDA-compatible optical inter-satellite links. 

Current plans call for the launch two Pathfinder satellites in Fall 2023, building on a current constellation of 21 satellites.  

The Kepler Network will streamline on-orbit communications with a network infrastructure designed to act as Internet exchange points (IXP) for space-to-space data relay. The Internet-ready constellation will deliver data to and from spacecraft in real time, enabling high-speed data relay through SDA-standard optical terminals.a

Kepler aims to offer optical services to customers by Q1 2025.

“Exponentially decreasing launch costs make space more accessible than ever, but connectivity beyond Earth is still costly, challenging, and inconsistent,” said Brad Gillespie, general partner at IA Ventures. “The Kepler Network solves this by providing a fast, open, developer-friendly network enabling ‘it-just-works’ connectivity between any asset in space and back to Earth—and someday to Mars and beyond! With proven customer demand for their high-speed optical network, we are excited to lead this funding round to enable Kepler to continue its rapid growth and achieve profitability.”

“Since our foundation, Kepler has been dedicated to enabling the future of space communications; working tirelessly to create the infrastructure needed for real-time, always-available access to space assets. As we build out The Kepler Network, we are solving challenges the industry faces and simplifying mission communications by bringing modern Internet capabilities into space,” said Mina Mitry, chief executive officer for Kepler. “Internet services on Earth completely transformed civilization, and we believe extending the Internet to space will have the same far-reaching impact.”

  • Kepler Communications was founded in 2015 by four graduate students from the University of Toronto: Mina Mitry, Wen Cheng Chong, Mark Michael and Jeffrey Osbourne.

Univ of Southampton highlights silicon electro-optical modulator

The University of Southampton's Silicon Photonics group announced the publication of its paper on "Harnessing plasma absorption in silicon MOS ring modulators" in the prestigious Nature Photonics journal. 

The researchers have shown that  absorption during the plasma-dispersion effect can be harnessed to enhance the performance of  silicon MOS ring modulators. 

The work was performed within a Prosperity Partnership project jointly funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and collaborator Rockley Photonics.

Dr Weiwei Zhang, Senior Research Fellow at the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), explains: “Silicon MOS ring modulators convert electrical signals into optical signals. This is based on the plasma-dispersion effect, where if you increase the concentration of electrons and holes in the waveguide, you get a phase shift of the light, as well an increase in absorption. Until now the absorption part has been considered unwanted as it increases the overall device loss and so you get less light afterwards.”

“Our work shows that you can use the absorption to push the modulators to perform better for the same device capacitance. As a result, we have also managed to demonstrate the fastest data transmission recorded on a device of this type so far up to 100 Gbit s−1.”

“One of our main research focuses is to continually push the performance of optical modulators in silicon photonics. Whilst there has been a worldwide trend to introduce other materials to do this, CMOS compatibility can be compromised potentially leading to higher production costs. Here we have shown that there are still ways to enhance the performance of all-silicon based devices that can be fabricated at relatively low cost.”

Thales joins European Quantum Communication Infrastructure

Thales has joined the EuroQCI initiative (European Quantum Communication Infrastructure), which aims to deploy a quantum communication infrastructure for EU member states within three years.

By 2040, quantum computers could use their unprecedented computational power to decode encrypted data, incomparably threatening the security of even the best-protected communication systems. EuroQCI aims to counter that threat by developing sovereign systems to protect the communications and data assets of critical infrastructure providers and government institutions.

The longer-term objective is to create a Quantum Information Network (QIN) that will harness the phenomenon of quantum entanglement not only to guarantee communications security but also to create networks of quantum sensors and processors, which have the potential to drive exponential increases in the already outstanding performance of quantum sensors and quantum computers.

As part of this effort, Thales is breaking new ground as a member of multiple new consortia that have been set up since late 2022 in the following fields:

  • Quantum repeaters, with the Delft University: QIA (Quantum Internet Alliance) – led by the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands – is working to demonstrate the feasibility of connecting users in two metropolitan areas 500 km apart, using quantum repeaters, which can compensate for the loss of information via a quantum memory;
  • Quantum key distribution: QKISS – coordinated by Exail – and QUARTER – led by LuxQuanta – are developing Quantum Key Distribution systems to protect users' critical communications from cyberattacks.
  • Certification of quantum communication: PETRUS – led by Deutsche Telekom – is the official coordinator of 32 EuroQCI projects, on behalf of the European Commission. It is also developing a framework for certification and accreditation of quantum communication products and networks.
  • Satellite quantum communications: TeQuantS – led by Thales Alenia Space – aims to develop quantum space-to-Earth communications technologies, necessary for cybersecurity applications and future quantum information networks, through the construction of satellites and optical ground stations by the end of 2026.

Thales notes that it currently operates the largest quantum physics research facilities in Europe, in partnership with the CNRS, and some 100 engineers and researchers are engaged in the development of the quantum solutions (sensors, communications and algorithms).

SambaNova adds AWS and Google Cloud veterans to team

SambaNova, a start-up based in Palo Alto, California that is developing an enterprise AI platform announced the addition of a former AWS Managing Director and a former Google Cloud VP to its team.

Richard Halkett has been appointed Chief Revenue Officer. He previously spent almost six years at Amazon Web Services (AWS), as the Managing Director and WW Lead for Innovation & Transformation Programs. Before joining AWS, he was the Global Director for Digital Capabilities at Cisco, where he built the company’s first sales teams dedicated to software, data, and analytics. Halkett brings extensive experience working in the US and internationally in both startup and enterprise technology in the public and private sectors. Previously, he was Executive Director of NESTA’s Policy & Research Unit, as well as Assistant Director of Studies at The Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Danner Stodolsky has been appointed SVP of Cloud. He joins SambaNova after over eleven years at Google, where he served as VP of Engineering for YouTube, Google Cloud Platform, and Ads Privacy. As a founder of the early search engine Lycos, and serving at Akamai Technologies, Quantum, and Verity, Stodolsky’s three decades of experience will provide SambaNova with unparalleled experience and insight.

"We're thrilled to have Richard and Danner join our team; they will be instrumental in unlocking new markets and enterprise applications for generative AI," said Rodrigo Liang, CEO of SambaNova Systems. "Richard’s expertise across sales, business strategy, and policy is unparalleled. His deep understanding of digital innovation will be invaluable as we continue to expand our reach. Danner’s engineering expertise from his many years at Google will help advance our cloud strategy globally.

  • SambaNova was founded in 2017 by Stanford Professors Kunle Olukotun and Chris Ré along with Rodrigo Liang. Kunle Olukotun is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Stanford University and is known for his pioneering work on multi-core processors. Chris Ré is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Stanford University and his research focuses on machine learning and its applications. Rodrigo Liang is a former Oracle executive who worked on hardware design for Sun Microsystems.