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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Optical Metrology

QUEEN - QUantentechnologien für den Einsatz auf Einem Nanosatelliten

A. Dinkelaker, A. Kaparthy, S. Reher, A. Peters and M. Krutzik









The QUEEN project is a Berlin-based collaboration of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HUB) with Technische Universität Berlin and Ferdinand-Braun Institut, Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik (FBH).

Over the course of the project, we study central aspects of space-based quantum technology and the feasability of its integration on nanosatellites. After a phase 0/A design study, QUEEN is now in mission phase B. As payload for a small satellite mission for optical quantum technologies, we propose an optical vapor-cell frequency reference based on the 5 S1/2 → 5 D5/2 two-photon transition in Rb with low size, weight, and power (SWaP) budgets and a frequency stability targeting at 10-14 per day.

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 clock. At the center of the payload is a laser system, based on micro-integrated laser technology developed at the Ferdinand-Braun-Institut in a joint lab activity with Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. We propose two extended cavity diode lasers (ECDL) which are independently frequency stabilized on the two-photon Rb transition at 778 nm by detecting the fluorescence via the 6 P 3/2 state at 420 nm (see Figure 1) and subsequent error signal processing. Specific attention will be given to the modulation, detection and stabilization of the laser light by carefully designing a compact optical distribution and switching module. We aim to monitor laser performance over long timescales and observe if relative frequency drifts between the lasers or any orbital effects occur. Parallel ground-based developments, qualification and environmental tests accompany the design and definition phase.

Small satellites provide perfect vehicles for in-orbit tests of key technologies, due to the comparatively low associated costs and their potential for fast implementation. The SWaP requirements of our payload design are matched by the capabilities of the modular, flight-proven TUBiX20 satellite platform developed by Technische Universität Berlin. 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 adopting the platform’s capabilities for a wide variety of payloads while maintaining short development cycles.

The platform design for QUEEN and the two-photon transition that can be used for the vapor cell clock are shown in Figure 1.



Figure 1: Left: CAD drawing of a TUBIN satellite, copyright M. Lehmann and M. Barschke (TU Berlin, Institut für Luft- und Raumfahrt). Right: Two-photon transition in Rb with 778.1 nm light.


As part of a profile partnership project between Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the National University of Singapore (NUS), prototype developments for laser control electronics for small satellite environments are ongoing.