Design, Manufacture and Reliability of Photonic Devices for Satellite Communications

Academic Institution: University of Glasgow

Academic Supervisor: Professor Richard Hogg

Industry Partner: aXenic

PhD Student: TBC

Start Date: TBC


The satellite communications (SatCom) market is >1/2 of the space business sector and is growing rapidly. Satellite manufacture in 2016 returned revenues of $13.9bn, and 126 satellites were launched that year. Europe’s share of the SatCom market now exceeds 35%.

Two main factors are driving growth in the SatCom market:

  1. More launches: Launching constellations with shorter lifetimes and lower reliability requirements

  2. More networks: Development of a network of low earth orbit and geostationary orbit satellites providing internet services

These two factors are leading to a need for Higher Throughput Satellites (HTS) and inter-satellite links with reduced weight per bit. One metre of coaxial cable weighs 100 g, whereas 1m of optical fibre weighs only 2g. This sector is looking to address this need through photonics.

However, deployment in space brings significant new challenges to the design and manufacture of these opto-electronic components. Due to weight and cost, product failure is a critical issue in arguably one of the harshest environments imaginable.

This project aims to tackle the control of both optical mode and RF properties of a high-speed optical modulator with assured reliability over very wide temperature ranges. We will develop new understanding into the effect of manufacturing imperfection on device performance, feeding this knowledge into new, higher yield and reliability components.

aXenic are leaders in the design, development and production of optical modulators for communications and sensing, particularly in the field of satellite communications. They bring many years of experience in developing optical modulators for satellite communications.

The University of Glasgow team have industrial and academic experience in developing a range of novel opto-electronic devices from materials through to systems applications, including optical communications. Critically, they bring experience in reliability engineering, and will forge links to colleagues to develop this capability in Scotland.