The next generation free-space optical communications infrastructure will need to support a wide variety of space-to-ground links. As a result of the limited size, weight, and power on space-borne assets, the ground terminals need to scale efficiently to large collection areas to support extremely long link distances or high data rates. Recent advances in integrated digital coherent receivers enable the coherent combining (i.e., full-field addition) of signals from several small apertures to synthesize an effective single large aperture. In this work, we experimentally demonstrate the coherent combining of signals received by four independent receive chains after propagation through a 3:2-km atmospheric channel. Measured results show the practicality of coherently combining the four received signals via digital signal processing after transmission through a turbulent atmosphere. In particular, near-lossless combining is demonstrated using the technique of maximal ratio combining.
D. J. Geisler, T. M. Yarnall, C. M. Schieler, M. L. Stevens, B. S. Robinson, and S. A. Hamilton, "Experimental demonstration of multi-aperture digital coherent combining over a 3.2-km free-space link," Proc. SPIE 10096, Free-Space Laser Communication and Atmospheric Propagation XXIX, 100960C (Presented at SPIE LASE: January 30, 2017; Published: 24 February 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2256581.
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