Many space missions rely on optical systems to meet their objectives – Earth Observation, Navigation, Meteorology, Telecommunications and many other space science missions. Each mission requires systems tailored to the individual application and demand a focus on reliability, volume, mass and efficiency. Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics can meet the challenges demanded by the development of these critical bespoke space systems.



Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics offers comprehensive capabilities and expertise in the design and development of a range of photonic systems central to space applications. The Centre has direct experience delivering on space agency contracts and are fully acquainted with the demanding development cycles and system requirements require for space


Fraunhofer CAP is well placed to meet a range of challenges associated with space systems

  • Identification of preferred laser architectures for space.
  • Architecture designs insensitive to environmental effects.
  • High-reliability systems and component selection.
  • High-power-efficiency designs.
  • Operational environmental testing.
  • Finite element modelling of laser systems.
  • Advanced performance systems (single frequency, ultrashort pulse).



Lasers operating in space must undergo and pass rigorous operational and non-operational environmental testing in order to gain space qualification including vibration, shock and thermal cycling tests. The laser architecture of preference will differ significantly to ground-based counterparts. Expertise in laser physics and optical systems engineering is required in order to identify and develop the most promising approach to ensure mission success.



A wide range of space missions rely on critical optical technologies. Fraunhofer CAP has experience in a wide range of applications applicable to space including:

  • Single-frequency lasers for quantum technology.
    •  Atom trapping, Interferometry and Clocks).
  • Lidar systems for earth observation or navigation.
  • Remote laser spectroscopy systems for earth observation.
  • Quantum-key-distribution systems and secure communication.

Some examples of our InnovateUK supported projects

REMOTE – (RuggEd Mirco-ECDL technology for cOld aTom applications in spacE)   

It is difficult to overestimate the impact of electronic computers on modern society – and yet, just a few decades ago, computer technology was a creature of the research laboratory due to their enormous complexity, power requirement, and cost. The uptake of such technology by wider, non-specialist society was only possible once improvements in the size, cost and performance of the subsystems upon which computers depend had been realised. Quantum technology finds itself at a similar junction. These systems are now a reality and hold enormous potential to revolutionise our lives, but they are only found in research laboratories because they depend upon very expensive, very large laser systems. In this project, we will reduce the size and cost of these critical components enormously, without losing performance, in order to place the UK at the vanguard of QT development and commercialisation.

Fraunhofer CAP collaborated in this project with:



University of Strathclyde




Next Generation Satellite QKD  -


Creating a UK Sovereign Capability for Manufacturing Satellite QKD Payloads   Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) facilitates the secure sharing of encryption keys using quantum technology. These keys can encrypt data for transmission over conventional fibre links across any distance, but QKD itself is limited over fibre to around 150km. Beyond this, 'trusted nodes' are required, but at major risk of creating security vulnerabilities. A number of fibre QKD networks are being built, including in the UK, but all are subject to this constraint. QKD through free space is less sensitive to distance. Thus, satellites provide the means for distributing keys across very large distances between end users spread across countries or continents - they are a facilitator of global QKD networks. Satellite components in QKD networks are being planned or researched in a number of countries. A consortium led by Arqit aims to establish the world's first commercial QKD satellite constellation. The first satellite is being build under contract with the European Space Agency, with a quantum payload being manufactured by European partners. There is an opportunity for the UK quantum technology industry to leapfrog other countries by creating a capability to manufacture the next generation of space QKD payloads here in the UK. The "Quantum Payload Factory" project will work with organisations across the UK to progress the state of the art of promising quantum communications technologies, understand their potential to enhance the performance of Arqit's global QKD system, validate their capabilities and technology readiness, engineer them to become "space ready" and develop an enhanced performance payload design that brings these new UK technologies into the second generation of Arqit satellites.

Fraunhofer CAP collaborated in this project with:

Arqit Ltd



Heriot-Watt University


ORCA Computing Ltd.

STFC - Laboratories