ESA’s Optical Floor Station, perched excessive on the slopes of Tenerife’s Mount Teide volcano, has now been peering skyward for 1 / 4 of a century. Initially designed for laser-based communications with satellites, it’s right this moment moreover employed for monitoring house particles and near-Earth asteroids in addition to supporting world-class science: this yr’s Physics Nobel Prize winner used the station for a quantum teleportation experiment that prolonged to the neighboring island of La Palma.
The Optical Floor Station, OGS, is a cryogenically-cooled 1-m diameter telescope inside a domed observatory, outfitted with a titanium-sapphire laser and state-of-the-art photon detectors to select up optical communication alerts from both low or geostationary orbit. The OGS is hosted at Teide Observatory, operated by Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, IAC, up at 2 400 m altitude, properly above the cloud layer, and on the closest to the equator of any ESA Member State territory.
Managers from ESA’s Mechanical Division and specialists from its Opto-Electronics part, answerable for managing OGS, met with IAC representatives to mark the silver anniversary and focus on the longer term position of the OGS.
“The station capabilities as a testbed for opto-electronics expertise, driving efficiency ahead in optical communications for house,” remarked Jose Gavira, Head of ESA’s Mechanical Division.
“At right this moment’s occasion we’ve been discussing new optical instrumentation, cryo-cooling and adaptive optics programs that would enhance its efficiency nonetheless additional. Specifically the OGS could have a key position in testing new quantum communications programs via free house, which characterize a method of unhackable safe connectivity.”
The OGS was created via an settlement between ESA and IAC in 1994, with the intention to check laser-based optical communications with satellites. As a result of mild has a a lot shorter wavelength than radio alerts, excessive bandwidth linkage turns into possible.
The station grew to become operational in 1997 and it achieved the milestone of the primary laser-based communication hyperlink in 2001, first with ESA’s Artemis satellite tv for pc in geostationary orbit, then with satellites in decrease orbits – tougher as a result of they’re in fixed movement relative to Earth’s floor and visual solely briefly within the native sky, requiring the telescope and laser to trace their movement.
The OGS even established an optical uplink and downlink all the best way to the Moon, with NASA’s LADEE lunar orbiter in 2013. It additionally carried out invaluable verify outs of the optical terminals used on many ESA and European satellites – notably the European Information Relay Satellites, which relay Earth remark information again from the Copernicus Sentinel satellites.
The station’s wonderful optical efficiency implies that it is usually relied upon by ESA’s Area Security programme to look at orbital particles as small as 10 cm as much as geostationary orbit, 36 000 km up in house, and for asteroids a lot additional out nonetheless. As an example, it was one of many first observatories to carry out follow-up observations of the ‘Oumuamua asteroid/comet in 2017, serving to to establish the mysterious physique’s interstellar origin.
For greater than 20 years the OGS has been observing particles for round 10 nights per 30 days, and 4 nights per 30 days for asteroids, with observations targeted on the darkest nights round new Moon. The station can also be utilized by ESA and IAC for purely astronomical observations.