Providing Interconnect Solutions for Big Data in Space – A Recap

In February 2021, experts from Glenair came together to share updates on interconnect solutions for future satellites on the Space Tech Expo Europe Winter Webinar Series. As data rates in space are increasing and as satellites become more flexible and versatile, the webinar provided insights in how higher data rate demand can be met when the right systems are implemented. Speakers Torsten Moellers, Dr Guido Hunziker, Ross Thompson and Dr Ron Logan provided detailed insights on high-speed interconnects, micro-D interconnects and optoelectronics.

Moderator Torsten Moellers, Business Development Manager kicked off the webinar by asking why the space industry actually needs a new generation of high-speed interconnect products.

Dr Guido Hunziker, Vice President of R&D at Glenair shed light on this: “The reason is data. The volume of data that is processed onboard recent satellites and the amount of data that gets transmitted to and from them is increasing dramatically.”

The demand from next-generation satellites is far greater than it used to be. Hunziker: “What we found out is that platforms that are being designed nowadays have the equivalent of what used to be a telecom data centre, all packed into one satellite. Telecom data centres central offices are air-conditioned and have very mild environments. What we now need to do is to adapt all this hardware for an environment that is much harsher – we have to consider many more parameters before we can send out some of these interconnect, cabling and transmission solutions that we have applied on Earth.”

Moellers: “How do you start to develop something like that?”

Hunziker: “The first realisation we had is that Moore’s law, to some extent, applies to space just like it applies down here on Earth. What we see is the scaling of the amount of data we need to transmit onto a platform doubles every 18 to 24 month and so just like USB has gone from 400mbps to 40gbps, we see exactly the same happening to popular protocols on spacecraft.”

Hunziker, Thompson, Moellers and Logan all provided detailed insights on how Glenair products and gave in-depth information on how these solutions help enable next-generation satellites.

The webinar concluded with a Q&A where speakers answered some of the audience’s most burning questions:

Can Glenair supply the supporting fibreoptic cables that go into photonics conversion as part of the systems assembly?

Logan: Yes, absolutely. In my presentation I mainly focused on the photonic transceiver technology which is the new technology at Glenair. For over 25 years we have produced very highly ruggedised aerospace-grade fibreoptic connector and cable assemblies. We can provide end-to-end solutions.

What is the difference between ESA and NASA micro-D connectors and GMD connectors?

Thomson: Glenair can supply fully compliant ESA and NASA micro-D and GMND connectors. All of the baseline materials are spaceflight compliant. With ESA micro-D type connectors we have to use a specific ESA-grade cable as well as specific plating thicknesses on the connector body.

Do you see a need to protect your connectors against environmental impact like humidity, fluids, dust? If yes, how do you do this?

Thomson: “The answer is yes and no. We have some programmes that require us to leave our interfacial gaskets in place. Many programmes, especially around the optics side of the industry, ask us to remove fluorosilicates, which is the product we generally use to seal the connector. If we do leave the interfacial gaskets in place, we really should be running an outgassing process on the product, whether it is the connector or the cable harness.”

Keen to get a detailed understanding of Glenair’s solutions for next-generation satellites? Make sure to watch the webinar on-demand here.