Numerous Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) demonstrations are planned by NASA to provide the basis for future implementation of optical communications links in planetary science missions and eventually manned missions to Mars. There is a need for a simple, robust precision optical stabilization concept for long-range free space optical communications applications suitable for optical apertures and masses larger than the current state of the art. We developed a stabilization concept by exploiting the ultra-low noise and wide bandwidth of ATA-proprietary Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) angular rate sensors and building on prior practices of flexure-based isolation. We detail a stabilization approach tailored for deep space optical communications, and present an innovative prototype design and test results. Our prototype system provides sub-micro radian stabilization for a deep space optical link such as NASA’s integrated Radio frequency and Optical Communications (iROC) and NASA’s DSOC programs. Initial test results and simulations suggest that >40 dB broadband jitter rejection is possible without placing unrealistic expectations on the control loop bandwidth and flexure isolation frequency. This approach offers a simple, robust method for platform stabilization without requiring a gravity offload apparatus for ground testing or launch locks to survive a typical launch environment. This paper reviews alternative stabilization concepts, their advantages and disadvantages, as well as, their applicability to various optical communications applications. We present results from testing that subjected the prototype system to realistic spacecraft base motion and confirmed predicted sub-micro radian stabilization performance with a realistic 20-cm aperture.
N. Jacka, R. Walter, D. Laughlin, and J. McNally, "Design of stabilized platforms for deep space optical communications (DSOC)," Proc. SPIE 10096, Free-Space Laser Communication and Atmospheric Propagation XXIX, 100960P (Presented at SPIE LASE: January 31, 2017; Published: 24 February 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2251689.
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