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Next-generation multi-beam terabit telecom satellites – Photonics in the satellite


New multi-beam tera-scale capacity satellites will require a disruptive approach to address digital on-board processors that rely on electronics which consume space, power and cost and reach their capacity saturation. The disruptive solution must combine scalability, technical feasibility, power-efficiency and cost-effectiveness. MERLIN aims to provide this solution realizing multi-gigabit optical interconnect with a unique combination of low-power high-bandwidth multimode GaAs VCSELs and PDs, low-power radiation-hardened BiCMOS driver ICs, and radiation-hardened multi-core fibers. MERLIN will integrate these technologies on a space-grade photonic integration capable of providing ruggedized transceiver modules with a record-high 150-Gb/s throughput and record-low <10-mW/Gbps energy consumption. The main objectives in the project are:

  • Advanced electro/photonic integration platform for harsh environment
  • Multi-core compatible and energy-efficient vertical GaAs 850-nm VCSEL and PD arrays
  • Low-power multi-channel VCSEL drivers and TIA ICs
  • Radiation-hard multi-core multi-mode fibres

IHP's Contribution

In the MERLIN project IHP is responsible for the design, fabrication and prototype testing of low-power radiation-hard electronic ICs for co-integration with the photonic devices. IHP will develop multi-channel VCSEL driver IC arrays and TIA receiver arrays operating at up to 25 Gb/s per channel and supporting the independent operation control and the embedded intelligence for autonomous operation. The ICs will be fabricated with IHP's high-performance 0.25-µm SiGe:C BiCMOS technology.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 607274.

Project Partners

Gooch & Housego, United Kingdom

Thales Alenia Space, France

Philips Technologie GmbH U-L-M Photonics, Germany

OFS Fitel Denmark, Denmark

VTT Technical Research Centre, Finland

Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden

The building and the infrastructure of the IHP were funded by the European Regional Development Fund of the European Union, funds of the Federal Government and also funds of the Federal State of Brandenburg.