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Optopyrotechnics Technology for Next Generation Launchers

Programme Reference
Prime Contractor
Start Date
End Date
Optopyrotechnics Technology for Next Generation Launchers
The objective of this activity is to develop a complete European Optopyrotechnic (OP) subsystem up to EQM (TRL 6) and to make it available for the Ariane 6 and other future launchers.
Launchers have a large number of pyrotechnic functions that are vital for a range of critical functions from engine ignition, control of the propulsion system, passivation, stage and fairing separation and in the case of emergency launcher destruction. Today European launchers rely on conventional pyrotechnics that are activated by passing an electric current through a bridge wire which results in local heating. Optopyrotechnics is a replacement technology that uses laser pulses to ignite the key pyro functions.
The key benefits of this technology are the following:
  • Improved safety and reliability through the removal of primary explosives from the upstream pyro chain and better test coverage since optical fibresare used to deliver the laser pulses directly to the terminal functions.
  • Reduction in cost through simplification of the pyro system.
  • Reduction in mass by the use of an optical harness as opposed to shielded electric cables and pyrolines.
  • Cost ;of ;ownership ;reduced ;through ;a ;simplified ;AIT ;processes, ;no integration of pyrolines and delays required.
Today optopyrotechnics is used in non-European launchers, but in Europe the technology has a TRL 4 for launchers. The technology has been under development through combined CNES and ESA funding since early 2000. The reliability and functionality of the Laser Initiated Detonators have been well established by CNES through a comprehensive test program and an IOD performed on the CNES satellite Demeter. In parallel, ESA has been working on this technology with European industry since 2006 through bread-boarding activities in the TRP.
The current GSTP activity is a continuation of the optopyro roadmap established in ESA and will take the technology development from Preliminary Design (TRL 4) through to a optopyro subsystem demonstration using an Engineering Qualification Model of the complete optopyro subsystem. This subsystem includes the following main equipment: the Laser Firing Unit (LFU), Optical safety Barrier (OSB) and Optical Harness (OH) (for the Optical Harness, this activity includes only preparatory work.). In order to make a continuous assessment of the added value of this technology the work will be split into two contractual phases. At the end of each phase an assessment of the technology will be made to ensure that no show stoppers have been identified and that the technology continues to be competitive compared with existing solutions.
The work shall be split into two phases as follows:
  • Phase 1: Detailed Design will be completed by a successful CDR review meeting (Technology TRL 5). Budget: Euro 2.5Meuro. Tasks Include:;
    • Complete testing and verification of all critical optical components in full range of representative environments, including full RAMS analysis. (For the Optical Harness, this activity includes only preparatory work.?).
    • Engineering Models of key OP equipments (OSB and LFU) shall be built and tested in a representative environment.
    • Breadboard ;of ;the ;Optical ;Test ;and ;Measurement ;Equipment ;(TME) required for AIT functions shall be developed.
    • Verification and RAMS assessment of all required AIT methodology.
    • Finalised detailed design of the complete optopyro subsystem ;demonstrator, but including only preparatory work for the fiber optic harness (OH) design.
    • Final optopyro subsystem test plan.
Hardware Deliverables: EM of OSB and LFU, Breadboard of optical TME.
  • Phase 2: EQM Manufacturing, Test and MAIT of the complete optopyro ;;subsystem will be completed with a successful Final Review meeting ;(Technology TRL 6). Budget: Euro 2Meuro. Tasks Include:
    • Manufacturing and assembling final EQM of LFU, OSB, TME and purchase of OH.
    • Manufacturing and assembling of Optopyro sub-system demonstrator.
    • Mounting of the Optopyro demonstrator on a representative receiving structure.
    • Verification of final AIT methods and procedures, including FDIR procedures.
    • Final cost report for full Optopyro sub-system for integration on launcher.
    • Release a final technology dossier for comparison with existing solutions. ;
Hardware Deliverables: Complete OP sub-system EQM mounted on a representative receiving structure. In addition both optical test and measurement equipment and appropriate EGSE will be developed to perform full functionality tests on the pyro sub-system.
Application Domain
Space Transportation
Technology Domain
17 - Optoelectronics
Competence Domain
7-Propulsion, Space Transportation and Re-entry Vehicles
Initial TRL
Target TRL
Achieved TRL
Public Document
Executive Summary