First Optical Frequency Comb in Space

The German Space Agency’s TEXUS 51 sounding rocket has been successfully launched on April 23, 2015 at 09:35 CEST from the ESRANGE space center in Kiruna, Northern Sweden. The flight lasted for approx. 20 min with around 6 min in zero gravity, reaching an altitude of 260km.

The FOKUS experiment (Faserlaserbasierter Optischer Kammgenerator unter Schwerelosigkeit) on board the rocket was using a Menlo Systems Optical Frequency Comb to compare two different species of atomic clocks with each other. Such a setup is testing Einstein’s general theory of relativity that predicts that gravity has the same influence on all clocks no matter how the clock is realized. Eventually such experiments will lead to new theories of gravity and will completely change our understanding of the world.

The clock comparison was successfully completed during the entire zero gravity phase. This demonstrates the robustness and high technology readiness level of Menlo’s frequency combs, enabling future comb applications on rockets and in space as well as in other harsh environments.

At the same time this is the first demonstration of a fully operational frequency comb system in space.

The FOKUS experiment is a collaborative effort between Menlo Systems, the Max-Planck-Institute of Quantum Optics, Garching, the Ferdinand Braun Institute, Berlin, Humboldt University, Berlin and the University of Hamburg. The mission has been funded by the DLR German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt).

Menlo Systems’ latest generation of Frequency Comb systems now offers the customer a complete range. From the widespread laser stabilization in optical laboratories to applications in spectroscopy to the extreme requirements of optical clocks and the generation of highly stable radio frequencies. For every application the right Frequency Comb.

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