The European Space Agency was formed in 1975 and consists of countries from the European Union, Switzerland, Norway and the United Kingdom. It has cooperative agreements from Turkey and the Ukraine, and associate membership from Canada.

In June 2018, Pilot stared a contract worth €267,000 to engage its optical comb technology in the field of optical frequency metrology. This is a highly accurate method means of obtaining physical measurements using light waves and microwaves. Other applications include precise clocking systems, gravity measurements and magnetic sensing.

This project successfully terminated in 2019, and was followed by a new, phase 2 project called Novel Light Source for Implementations in High Frequency Metrology. This moved beyond a proof-of-principal stage using a benchtop model, and into the development of a comb PIC and demux and supporting architecture. This novel light source can have several space applications:

1. Frequency Generation Units (FGUs)

2. Enabling component in Coherent Population Trapping (CPT)

     a) Atomic Clock Generation

     b) Magnetometers

3. Laser cooling for gravimeters

Jules Braddell, Pilot’s vice-president of engineering, explained that the objective is to “design a new light source that is optimised for rubidium coherent population trapping, a technique used in many atomic clocks and magnetic sensors. Or team has been developing this core technology for years and is delighted to work with the European Space Agency to enhance it.”

Founder and CTO, Dr. Frank Smyth, added: “Aside from being a great endorsement of our team and technology, this project aligns perfectly with our strategy to open up new markets for our comb source photonics chips.”

Pilot’s submission was supported by Enterprise Ireland, which co-ordinates Ireland’s participation in industrial and scientific research with ESA.

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