16. February 2018
Enabling communications using lasers

Laser ter­mi­nals from DLR and its spin-off, My­nar­ic, in­duct­ed in­to the 'Space Tech­nol­o­gy Hall of Fame'

The optical ground station in Oberpfaffenhofen
The op­ti­cal ground sta­tion in Oberp­faf­fen­hofen
Image 1/2, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

The optical ground station in Oberpfaffenhofen

The op­ti­cal ground sta­tion in Oberp­faf­fen­hofen serves as a re­ceiv­ing sta­tion with its 40-cen­time­tre tele­scope. It has been de­signed es­pe­cial­ly with a view to tak­ing mea­sure­ments.
The 'Freespace Experimental Laser Terminal II'
The 'Freespace Ex­per­i­men­tal Laser Ter­mi­nal II'
Image 2/2, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0).

The 'Freespace Experimental Laser Terminal II'

At­tached to the un­der­side of DLR’s Dornier Do 228-212 re­search plane – the ‘Freespace Ex­per­i­men­tal Laser Ter­mi­nal II’ for da­ta com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween the air­craft and the ground. Nu­mer­ous mea­sure­ments were tak­en with the sys­tem. The rel­e­vant prop­er­ties of the at­mo­sphere were de­ter­mined in or­der to op­ti­mise the da­ta trans­mis­sion sys­tems.

  • Laser terminals from the DLR spin-off Mynaric provide fast Internet above the clouds
  • Digital space technologies are being used in society
  • Focus: Space, communications, digitalisation, social benefits, spin-offs

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.

  • Miriam Poetter
    Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Oberp­faf­fen­hofen, Augs­burg, Weil­heim
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)

    Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Telephone: +49 8153 28-2297
    Fax: +49 8153 28-1243
    Münchener Straße 20
    82234 Weßling
  • Dr Rolf-Dieter Fischer
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    DLR Tech­nol­o­gy Mar­ket­ing
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-3660
    Fax: +49 2203 695-689
    Linder Höhe
  • Christian Fuchs
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)

    DLR In­sti­tute of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Nav­i­ga­tion
    Telephone: +49 8153 28-1547
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Köln

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