Optical Quantum Technologies for Compact Rubidium Vapor-cell Frequency Standards in Space Using Small Satellites

A.N. Dinkelaker1, A. Kaparthy1, S.E. Reher1, M. Krutzik1, A. Bawamia2, C. Kürbis2, R. Smol2, H. Christopher2, A. Wicht2, P. Werner3, J. Bartholomäus3, S. Rotter3, M.F. Barschke3, R. Jördens4

Published in:

J. Br. Interplanet. Soc., vol. 72, no. 3, pp. 74-82 (2019).

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As part of the phase 0/A of the QUEEN mission, we evaluated our payload and satellite platform heritage and studied feasible mission scenarios for demonstrating optical frequency references aboard small satellites. We propose an optical vapor-cell frequency reference payload based on the 5S1/2 → 5D5/2 two-photon transition in 85Rb with low size, weight, and power budgets. In conjunction with an optical frequency comb, which can be used as an optical-to-microwave frequency divider, our payload could be advanced to a compact and simple vapor-cell based optical atomic clock. At the center of the payload is a laser system, based on micro-integrated laser technology, consisting of two independently frequency stabilized extended cavity diode lasers in a master-oscillator-power-amplifier configuration (ECDL-MOPA) at 778 nm. Ground-based development and environmental testing accompany the design and definition phase. Small satellites provide perfect vehicles for in-orbit tests of key technologies, due to the low associated costs compared to large satellite missions, and their potential for fast implementation. The requirements of our payload design are matched by the capabilities of the modular, flight-proven TUBiX20 satellite platform. This platform is designed to support demanding small science, technology and Earth observation missions of roughly 20 kg. Its modular approach realized in hard- and software allows scaling the platform’s capabilities for a wide variety of payloads while maintaining short development cycles. In this paper, we discuss the options and requirements for sending a compact, high-stability two-photon optical frequency reference into orbit and present advances in platform and payload design.

1 Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Department of Physics, Newtonstr. 15, 12489 Berlin, Germany
2 Ferdinand-Braun-Institut, Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik, Gustav-Kirchhoff-Strasse 4, 12489 Berlin, Germany
3 Technische Universität Berlin, Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Marchstr. 12-14, 10587 Berlin, Germany
4 QUARTIQ GmbH, Rudower Chaussee 29, 12489 Berlin, Germany


Optical clock, Rubidium, Two-photon transition, Diode lasers, Quantum technology, Small satellite mission, Modular satellite platform, Frequency reference, Laser system