Optical Switches

Optical Switches With No Moving Parts For Space Applications


The objective of this activity is to examine the suitability of solid state fiber optic switches to meet future space applications and define a complete technology development and space qualification roadmap for the most suitable solid state optical switch technology for future satellite payloads. The use of solid state switching greatly improves the reliability of optical switch technology when compared with the use of bulky mechanical switching systems. In addition to this benefit solid state switching can provide faster switching speeds which is required in SpaceFiber and in some optical switching applications.

Initial Survey

  • Literature survey & Questionnaire details as follows
  •  Technical requirements for different applications
  • Operating principles, advantages and inconveniences of different technologies
  • Identification of potential manufacturers

Applications Technologies

  • CO2 Monitoring Lidar
  • Atom Sensor(750 and 1580nm)
  • Optical Sensing
  • Digital Communications
  • Local Oscillator-Distribution
  • Optical Communications (5KWpeak,10W and 100mW)
  • Optopyrotechnics
  • Laser Interferometry


✓Bulk Electro-optic (B-EO),
✓ Waveguide Electro-optic (WG-EO),
✓ Magneto-optic (MO)
• Acousto-optic (AO)
✓ Liquid Crystal (LC)
• Thermo-optic (TO)

Test Flow

optical switches

Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Solid state optical switches with no moving parts are excellent candidates for space applications, specially Bulk Electro-Optics and Magneto Optics technologies . They respond very well under typical space conditions as radiation, vibration, shocks and thermal vacuum.
  • The temperature should be maintained constant.
  • The Consortium recommends the switches based on MO or B-EO for space applications.
  • BEO should be used for applications requiring high switching speed and MO for those requiring a minimum crosstalk.


  • The optical switches are more sensible to temperature than mechanical or gamma radiation
  • All the tested samples, except EpiPhotonic (WG-EO) switch, passed all the tests. This failure is not inherent to the WG-EO technology (easy to solve)
  • No differentiation has been found between Polarization Maintaining fibers and Single Mode fibers


This project has been founded by European Space Agency, ITT AO/1-8427/15/NL/RA/ZK “Optical Switch for Space Applications with No Moving Parts”

Authors: David Poudereux & Juan Barbero (Alter Technology)
J. Manuel G. Tijero & Ignacio Esquivias (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid)
Iain Mackenzie (European Space Agency)

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