Impact of the Boundary Layer on Pointing and Tracking in Airborne Free-Space Laser Communication Links
MASSACHUSETTS INST OF TECH CAMBRIDGE DEPT OF AERONAUTICS AND ASTRONAUTICS
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Free-space laser communication is a developing technology with enormous potential to revolutionize the way people communicate across the globe. Of specific interest are air-to-space lasercom links. Such a link experiences atmospheric scintillation, platform jitter, and boundary layer turbulence. This research investigated the tracking challenge using a focal plane array sensor with centroid and peak tracking algorithms. Also investigated was the use of a deformable mirror to recreate optical phase distortions from boundary layer turbulence. Experiments were conducted with realistic channel effects for multiple look angles between a subsonic aircraft at 29 kft and geosynchronous satellite. Performance was determined by power delivered to an optical fiber. The results show that the two tracking algorithms can differ by up to one decibel of fiber power, with centroid tracking generally performing best. Conclusions are highly dependent on aircraft and spacecraft parameters but point towards centroid tracking for maximizing received power.
- Electrooptical and Optoelectronic Devices
- Fluid Mechanics
- Non-Radio Communications