The Deep Space Optical Communication (DSOC) project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory aims to perform a bidirectional laser communication technology demonstration from deep space, at ranges from 0.1 - 3 AU. To support high data rates over such distances while keeping the mass and power on the spacecraft comparable to radio-frequency communication systems, extremely high-performance single photon detectors are required at the ground receiver. To this end, JPL has been developing 64-pixel tungsten silicide superconducting nanowire single photon detector (WSi SNSPD) arrays suitable for use in the DSOC ground terminal. To efficiently couple to a 5-meter telescope aperture in the presence of atmospheric seeing, the arrays are free-space coupled and have a combined 320-micron diameter active area. The development is targeting 70% system detection efficiency at an operating wavelength of 1550 nm, 150 ps time resolution, a maximum count rate approaching 109 counts per second, a numerical aperture capable of supporting an f/1.2 beam, a background-limited dark count rate, and an operating temperature of 1 Kelvin. In this paper, we will present our progress toward these goals, both in terms of focal plane array development and cryogenic readout technology.
Matthew Shaw, Francesco Marsili, Andrew Beyer, Ryan Briggs, Jason Allmaras, and William H. Farr, "Superconducting nanowire single photon detectors for deep space optical communication (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 10096, Free-Space Laser Communication and Atmospheric Propagation XXIX, 100960J (Presented at SPIE LASE: January 31, 2017; Published: 19 April 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2255836.5389862352001.
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