The Galileo Competence Center of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR-GK) has awarded a €16.8 million ($25.8 million) contract to Airbus for the hosting of DLR’s COMPASSO mission on the International Space Station (ISS) using the firm’s Bartolomeo platform.
COMPASSO is expected to be the first in-orbit verification of compact and highly stable laser-optical clocks, which are compared and synchronised to stable clocks on Earth via a bi-directional optical link.
The optical link between the ISS and the ground station is also used for assessing the influence of atmospheric turbulence on the frequency and time transfer.
The optical clocks are designed to support 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.
This is expected to achieve a higher accuracy in position determination on Earth, which 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,” Hansjörg Dittus, member of the executive board at DLR, said.
“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-kilogram 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 are expected to return 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,” Andreas Hammer, head of space exploration at Airbus, said.
“It is great that with this tailored service solution, we were also able to offer DLR-GK an ideal basis for their COMPASSO experiments.”
Airbus’ Bartolomeo platform was launched and robotically attached to the ISS Columbus Module in 2020.
The platform is expected to be ready for its in-space commissioning in the coming weeks, following the final connection of the cabling, which requires extravehicular activity (EVA).
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