Pyro techniques are used for separation mechanisms, valves, ignition and other functions onboard launchers and satellites. Today the most common systems are based on electro-pyro and pyro-lines (primary explosives). These systems are demanding to integrate and test and to reduce cost other pyro technologies are developed and investigated.
Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace is developing next generation pyro system technology called optopyro. The system is based on optical technology where laser pulses, generated by high power semiconductor lasers are distributed via optical fibers to initiation of pyro functions.
An optopyro system is composed of four major elements: the Laser Firing Unit (LFU), the Optical Safety Barrier (OSB), the Optical Harness (OH), and an Optical Detonator (DOP). The LFU is an electronics box containing the interface to the launcher avionics system, the laser control electronics and an electrical safety barrier. The OSB guarantee no light is going from the LFU to the rest of the system when in Arm position. The OH is the fibers with connectors, splitters etc. that transfer and distribute laser pulses to the pyro functions. The DOP is used to trigger pyro functions when receiving the laser firing pulse.
An optical pyrotechnic system will remove the primary explosives from a launcher and thereby increase efficiency and reduce cost of the integration process. Other benefits of the technology are reduced procurement cost, reduced mass, and reduction of lead pollution made possible by replacing traditional electrical cables and lead encapsulated pyro lines with optical fibers.
KDA has been working on optopyro technics since 2001; in various projects and studies with ESA (European Space Agency), CNES (Centre National d’études Spatiales), NSC (Norwegian Space Center) and Astrium SAS.