These LIDAR instruments require a pulsed single frequency laser source with emission at a specific wavelength. Pulse energies in the 10 mJ or 100 mJ range are required at bandwidth limited pulse durations in the multi-10 ns range. Pulse repetition rate requirements are typically around 100 Hz but may range from 10 Hz to some kHz. High efficiency is mandatory.
Building complex laser sources providing the performance, reliability and lifetime necessary to operate such instruments in space has been recognized to be still very challenging.
To overcome this, in the frame of the FULAS technology development project - funded by ESA and supported by the German Aerospace Center DLR - a versatile platform for LIDAR sources has been developed. For demonstration the requirements of the laser source in the ATLID instrument have been chosen.
The design is based on a single frequency seeded, actively Q-switched, diode pumped Nd:YAG laser oscillator and an InnoSlab power amplifier with frequency tripling. The laser architecture pays special attention on Laser Induced Contamination by avoiding critical organic and outgassing materials. Soldering technologies for mounting and alignment of optics provide high mechanical stability and superior reliability.
The FULAS infrared section has been assembled and integrated into a pressurized housing. The optical performance at 1064 nm has been demonstrated and thermal vacuum tests have been carried out successfully providing relevant data for the French-German climate mission MERLIN.