DLR to Use Airbus Bartolomeo Service for First In-Orbit Verification of Laser-Optical Clocks

The Galileo Competence Center of the German Aerospace Center (DLR-GK) and Airbus have signed a €16.8 Mio contract for the hosting of DLR’s COMPASSO mission on the International Space Station (ISS) Bartolomeo platform.

COMPASSO will be the first in-orbit verification of compact and highly stable laser-optical clocks. Via a bi-directional optical link, these clocks are compared to and synchronized with highly stable clocks on Earth. In addition, the optical link between the ISS and the ground station is used for assessing the influence of atmospheric turbulence on the frequency and time transfer.

In combination with optical links, highly stable optical clocks are of particular interest for future generations of satellite navigation systems, such as Galileo, and the basis for new Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) architectures, such as the Kepler concept developed at DLR. Combined with the control of further parameters, such as accuracy in orbit determination and atmosphere modelling, a higher accuracy in position determination on Earth can be achieved while at the same time reducing the ground segment complexity and size.

“In addition to satellite positioning applications, the frequency reference developed in COMPASSO is a highly stable and extremely coherent light source for inter-satellite laser interferometry,” said Hansjoerg Dittus, Member of the Executive Board at DLR. “This is of significant interest for Earth observation missions such as the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment follow-on, GRACE-FO, or scientific missions such as the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna LISA”.

The 200 kg COMPASSO mission is expected to launch in late 2024 and will occupy a double slot on the Bartolomeo platform. At the end of the 18-month mission, the payload components will be returned to Earth.

“COMPASSO will be fitted onto a dedicated ArgUS Carrier, an adapter plate originally designed for carrying several smaller payloads in a ride-share scenario,” said Andreas Hammer, Head of Space Exploration at Airbus. “It is great that with this tailored service solution, we were also able to offer DLR-GK an ideal basis for their COMPASSO experiments.”

The DLR Galileo Competence Center (DLR-GK) is responsible for the COMPASSO project management and acts as both the contracting authority and the technical authority. It coordinates the DLR institutes and external suppliers developing COMPASSO subsystems, including on-board and ground software. DLR-GK is located at the DLR site in Oberpfaffenhofen.

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