HomeScienceOuter SpaceThe International Space Station's Latest Transceiver Targets Space Junk| Research &...

The International Space Station’s Latest Transceiver Targets Space Junk| Research & Technology | November 2022

DRESDEN, Germany, 23 Nov. 2022 — The use of a modular system, which allows the replacement of individual components and thus extends the service life — can make satellite systems more sustainable. To ensure a trouble-free interface between components, a team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS (Fraunhofer IPMS) has developed a transceiver that guarantees data transfer between the components. The system has been on board the International Space Station (ISS) for testing purposes since February 2022.


Li-Fi GigaDock transceiver for high data rate data transmission over short distances with light. Thanks to Fraunhofer IPMS.


The need for modular satellite systems addresses the problem of space debris; at the end of their life, satellites burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere or remain in orbit. This produces space debris, which entails enormous cost and effort and can endanger lives during manned spaceflight.

In order to be able to connect and disconnect modules flexibly directly in the room, easy-to-connect and standardized components are preferred for modular satellite systems. In addition to the mechanical coupling of the individual modules, optimal modules must ensure the transfer of data and energy, so that satellites can be combined as required.

For this reason, the company iBOSS GmbH has launched iSSI (intelligent Space System Interface). The solution, developed by a team from RWTH Aachen University, provides a standard interface for such systems.

Astronaut on the International Space Station assembles the components.  Thanks to NASA.


Astronaut on the International Space Station assembles the components. Thanks to NASA.


The Fraunhofer IPMS team developed part of the interface, the Li-Fi GigaDock technology. At the heart of the technology is an optical wireless transceiver, a highly integrated device that enables contactless full-duplex and bi-directional data transmission at data rates of up to 5 Gbit/s. The possible transmission distance of the optical data interface is 5 cm. The part can also be used for rotor-to-stator transmission, as the transceiver functions perfectly even at high speeds.

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According to Alexander Noack, head of development for optical wireless communication at Fraunhofer IPMS, the component can also be found outside of aerospace in industrial communication systems, medical technology and docking applications.

The device was flown into space in February and robotically mounted on the Japanese part of the ISS for testing and demonstration purposes. It will remain until mid-December to prove its operational capability under vacuum conditions and the influence of radiation.

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