Farewell to the undersea cable? TRW Space & Electronics Group, an operating unit of TRW Inc, is promising giant gains in satellite performance with a series of components under development, using its high temperature superconducting technology. The company says it has already built and successfully tested a digital multiplexer, which is about the size of a Sony Walkman and weighs three to five pounds when combined with the cryo-cooler, needed to keep it at -208oC. The Redondo Beach-based division is also finishing development of two more high temperature superconducting components: an analogue-to-digital converter and a phase modulator, which it is promising to demonstrate next month. Linked to a conventional transmitter, they will make up a full high-speed digital downlink from satellites to Earth. The TRW devices are based on Superconductive QUantum Interference Devices, or Squids, constructed from Josephson Junctions. The average Squid can switch much much faster than conventional Silicon, meaning that the downlinks will be able to operate at much higher data rates than today’s satellite transceivers. Moreover, the company claims that circuits can be implemented in high-temperature superconductors with phenomenally reduced component counts, compared with their conventional equivalents. The development of high temperature superconductors means that the refrigeration units required become small enough to get superconducting technology into space for the first time. TRW claims its unit is 10 times smaller and demands 40 times less power than conventional counterparts. TRW’s process involves the deposition of thin films of the superconductive material Yttrium Barium Copper Oxygen, or onto substrates.