Optical interconnect within space vehicles in geostationary orbit

Satellite can use optical transceivers extensively.

Leveraging its expertise in embedded optical communication modules for defense and aerospace, Reflex Photonics is offering radiation-hardened optical transceivers aimed at the space market with the introduction of the SpaceABLE™ and SpaceCONEX™ “radiation hardened” line of products.

Description of the application

When components, like embedded optical transceivers are deployed in space on a satellite or on a space vehicle, they are exposed to both protons and heavy ions from cosmic rays and solar flares. Unlike most electronic equipment designed for terrestrial use, hardware deployed in space must be radiation resistant.

Geostationary satellites are deployed at an altitude 36 000 km, hence, they are not affected by the radiation present in the two Van Allen belts. They, nonetheless have to contend with solar and cosmic radiation for the duration of their mission without incurring downtime.

 The charged particles are concentrated by the earth magnetic field into two principal zones called the Val Allen belts.

A new generation of Ka band geostationary communications satellite.

New generation communication multibeam satellites can have around 200 Ka band spot-beams. Those multibeam satellites have an increased number of data lanes that can themselves support higher baud rate because of higher transmission frequency. 

Information streams are directed from one beam to another inside a data processing switch. The data transfer rate of these switches is very high: high-throughput satellite deal with bandwidth of up to 100 Gb/s.

Optical interconnect solutions reduce payload weight and harnessing complexity.

Payload can be made more flexible if all the spot beam signals goes through switches. The same payload can be “repurposed” more easily from one client application to another, thus giving a faster ROI to payload developers and enabling more economical solution for satellite operators.

Optical interconnect makes high-throughput multibeam Ka band satellite a cost-effective solution and SpaceABLE and the SpaceCONEX radiation-resistant optical transceivers, with their intrinsic radiation resistance, are the best COTS optical interconnect for geostationary space vehicles.

Benefits of using Reflex Photonics optical space-grade optical solutions

  • Meet highest level SWaP requirement.
  • Smallest transceiver on the market, low weight.
  • Heavy-ion tested.
  • Gamma rays tested.
  • High and low energy protons tested.
  • ECSS process and lot acceptance tests.
  • 12-lane parallel optical transceiver.
  • Up to 12.5 Gbps/lane from –40 ºC to 100 ºC.
  • BER: As low as 10–15.
  • Sensitivity: as high as –12 dBm.

Transceiver used in this application

SpaceABLE 50G (full duplex) and  SpaceABLE 150G radiation resistant transceivers

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SpaceABLE radiation-resistant optical transceivers

SpaceABLE radiation hardened optical transceivers

We are taking environmental threats seriously when it comes to qualifying our radiation resistant modules and this is why we have placed so much effort on testing for heavy ions, protons and gamma rays. Reflex Photonics’ radiation resistant or “Space-grade” transceivers are engineered to withstand radiation doses >100 krad (Si). Furthermore, all our devices are tested following ECSS process and lot acceptance testing, and component pre-screening is done for every batch of transceivers sold for this application.

Radiation tests summary

Radiation Test #1:

Proton testing: Total Non-Ionizing Dose (TNID).
Testing was done at KVI – University of Groningen, The Netherlands.

Radiation Test #2:

Heavy ion testing: Single Event Effect & Latch-up (SEE and SEL).
Testing was done at Texas A&M University, USA.

Radiation Test #3:

Gamma Ray using Cobalt-60: Total Ionizing Dose (TID) (MIL-STD-883G, method 1019.7).
Testing was done at TRAD in Toulouse, France.

SpaceABLE also passed standard LightABLE qualifications

  • Vibration tests per MIL-STD-883, Method 2007.3.
  • Mechanical shock tests per MIL-STD-883, Method 2002.4.
  • Thermal shock tests per MIL-STD-883, Method 1011.9.
  • Damp heat tests per MIL-STD-202, Method 103B.
  • Cold storage tests per MIL-STD-810, Method 502.5.
  • Thermal cycling tests per MIL-STD-883, Method 1010.8.


Stephen Buchner, Paul Marshall, Scott Kniffin and Ken LaBel. “Proton testing guidelines”, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, 2002.
Doug Sinclair and Jonathan Dyer. “Radiation Effects and COTS Parts in SmallSats”, SSC, 2013.