Laser terminals from Mynaric, a spin-off company of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have been inducted into the 'Space Technology Hall of Fame'. "This US Space Foundation award is a great honour for us. DLR technologies that have been designed and produced by Mynaric have received a great deal of international recognition. These technologies and their transfer are a great example of the aerospace industry’s contribution to digitalisation," says Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the DLR Executive Board.
Broadband connectivity is the challenge
With high-speed Internet, networking and digitalisation, the demand for ubiquitous network connectivity is increasing rapidly. The data transmission infrastructure outside of major cities has long since reached its limits. In response to this, corporations such as Amazon, Google and Facebook are striving to build a superfast Internet above the clouds, in order to bring outlying areas online. The products developed by Mynaric enable the necessary data highways to be established between aircraft, platforms in the stratosphere, and even satellites. Laser light can transmit large amounts of data over enormous distances, securely and without any losses.
The DLR Institute of Communications and Navigation has been actively researching laser communications systems for many years and plays a leading international role in their development and testing. "Our Institute, together with Mynaric, has often been the first to demonstrate many new developments. These include the first connection to a tethered balloon, a stratospheric balloon, a propeller-driven aircraft and to a jet-to-jet connection. The Institute also holds a number of world records, including transmission over a stretch of open space of more than 10 kilometres, at a data rate of 1.73 terabits per second. Our researchers have repeatedly laid the foundations for new technological developments," reports Christoph Günther, Director of the Institute. Laser communications allow the data transmission rate to be significantly increased, as more than 1000 times more spectrum is available. The highly concentrated nature of the light means that the majority of it reaches the receiver, thereby significantly increasing efficiency compared to radio waves.
"We are currently experiencing a radical change in telecommunications infrastructure, and laser communications is regarded as a key technology for data transmission in the skies, as the equivalent of optical fibres. We believe that our products place us in an ideal position to establish ourselves as one of the market leaders for the Internet above the clouds," says Mynaric CEO Wolfram Peschko.
Induction into the Hall of Fame
Mynaric's laser communications products have been inducted into the 'Space Technology Hall of Fame' under the heading 'Laser terminals for the skies and beyond'. Some of the key technologies for this have been licensed from DLR. Every year, the Hall of Fame recognises technologies that were originally developed for the aerospace industry and are being used as practical, marketable products – particularly if they improve people's quality of life. Both individuals and organisations are honoured. The award was created in 1988 by the Space Foundation, a non-profit organisation headquartered in Colorado that supports space exploration and exploitation, in collaboration with the US space agency, NASA. "We are delighted that the Space Foundation has inducted this collective achievement of rigorous research, transfer and bold entrepreneurship into the Space Technology Hall of Fame," says Rolf-Dieter Fischer, Director of DLR Technology Marketing. The official award ceremony will take place on 19 April 2018 at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.
Background box – Mynaric
With the aim of commercialising technology from research, three former employees from the Institute of Communications and Navigation – Markus Knapek, Joachim Horwath and Dirk Giggenbach – founded Vialight (now Mynaric) in 2009. "The foundations of this development were laid at DLR, based on the technology for aeronautical applications developed by DLR, which was first demonstrated in a project aboard a Panavia Tornado sponsored by Airbus. Together with Vialight (now Mynaric), we developed a terminal for the Tornado on behalf of Airbus, which was flown at Mach 0.7 in 2012," explains Christoph Günther. Since then, Mynaric has continued to evolve and was floated on the stock exchange in 2017 to drive the company’s growth. "Our research into communications technologies has advanced laser communications, our technology marketing has supported its transfer into applications, and our researchers have shown the entrepreneurial spirit to market this technology by founding Mynaric," says Rolf-Dieter Fischer, explaining the interaction of those involved. "For improved global networking with increasing bandwidth, the possible applications of laser communications are almost unlimited." The spin-off was supported by DLR Technology Marketing, funded by Helmholtz Enterprise and underwent the incubation programme at ESA BIC Bavaria. Since 2011, Mynaric has held a licence to commercialise the technology for the 'Internet above the clouds' researched at DLR and developed during innovation projects.