Data transmits via optical communications through fibers at 10’s of Terabits per second. Given the recent rapid explosion for bandwidth and competing demand for radio frequency (RF) spectrum allocations among differing interests, the need for space-based free space optical communications (FSOC) systems is ever increasing. FSOC systems offer advantages of higher data rates, smaller size and weight, narrower beam divergence, and lower power than RF systems. Lightweight, small form factor, and high performance two-axis gimbals are of strong interest for satellite FSOC applications. Small gimbal and optical terminal designs are important for widespread implementation of optical communications systems; in particular, for satellite-to-satellite crosslinks where the advantages of more secure communications links (Lower Probability of Intercept (LPI)/Lower Probability of Detect (LPD)) are very important. We developed design concepts for a small gimbal focusing on the use of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) subsystems to establish their feasible implementation against the pointing stabilization, size, weight and power (SWaP), and performance challenges. The design drivers for the gimbal were weight, the elevation and azimuth field of regards, the form factor envelope (1U CubeSats), 100 μrad pointing accuracy, and 10 degrees per second slew capability. Innovations required in this development included a continuous fiber passed through an Azimuth Fiber Wrap and Elevation Fiber Wrap, overcoming typical mechanical and stress related limitations encountered with fiber optic cable wraps. In this presentation, we describe the configuration trades and design of such a gimbal.
A. Cline, P. Shubert, J. McNally, N. Jacka, and R. Pierson, "Design of a stabilized, compact gimbal for space-based free space optical communications (FSOC)," Proc. SPIE 10096, Free-Space Laser Communication and Atmospheric Propagation XXIX, 100960G (Presented at SPIE LASE: January 30, 2017; Published: 24 February 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2251656.
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