Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI) has been awarded a contract from NASA to develop a cost effective ground-based laser system that can serve as a beacon laser and as a transmitter to communicate with satellites in deep space at a distance of Mars and beyond.
For deep space optical communications (OC) at astronomical distances such as Mars and beyond, a multi-kW average power laser that can be coded to send data is needed. OC will revolutionize space-based science and exploration capabilities by enabling data rates up to 100 times faster than currently used radio frequency based systems. PSI proposed to develop a laser architecture for a ground beacon and uplink laser transmitter. The innovation is a simple tapered fiber design that can produce high energy pulses at low pulse repetition rate (PRF) and also low energy pulses at high PRF. The versatility of the design fills the gap between these two types of lasers. In Phase I, the laser was operated at 1 MHz with 150 μJ pulse energy and also operated at 30 MHz with 5 μJ pulse energy. The former is suitable for the long link distance to Mars, and the latter is suitable for a high data rate at 60 Mb/s. The proposed technology can also be applied to Er-doped fiber lasers to produce a near 1.5 micron wavelength suitable for a downlink laser.
For more information contact:
Dr. David M. Sonnenfroh
Area Manager, Atmospheric Sciences
Physical Sciences Inc.
Office: (978) 689-0003
Acknowledgement of Sponsorship: This work is supported under a contract with NASA Stennis Space Center. This support does not constitute an express or implied endorsement on the part of the Government.