26 April 1995 Laser beaming demonstrations at the Starfire Optical Range
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Abstract
The ability to acquire, track, and accurately direct a laser beam to a satellite is crucial for power-beaming and laser-communications. To assess the state of the art in this area, a team consisting of Air Force Phillips Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and COMSAT Corporation personnel performed some laser beaming demonstrations to various satellites. A ruby laser and a frequency-doubled YAG laser were used with the Phillips Lab Starfire Optical Range (SOR) beam director for this activity. The ruby laser projected 20 J in 6 ms out the telescope with a beam divergence that increased from 1.4 to 4 times the diffraction limit during that time. The doubled YAG projected 0.09 J in 10 ns at 20 Hz. The SOR team demonstrated the ability to move rapidly to a satellite, center it in the telescope, then lock onto it with the tracker, and establish illumination. Several low-earth-orbit satellites with corner- cube retro-reflectors were illuminated at ranges from 1000 to 6000 km with a beam divergence estimated to be about 20 (mu) radians. The return signal from the ruby laser was collected in a 15-cm telescope, detected by a photomultiplier tube, and recorded at 400 kHz. Rapid variations in intensity (as short as 15 microsecond(s) ) were noted, which may be due to speckles caused by phase interference from light reflected from different retro-reflectors on the satellite. The return light from the YAG was collected by a 35-cm telescope and detected by an intensified CCD camera. The satellite brightened by about a factor of 30 in the sunlight when the laser was turned on, and dimmed back to normal when the 50-(mu) radian point- ahead was turned off. The satellite was illuminated at 1 Hz as it entered the earth's shadow and followed for about 10 seconds in the shadow. In another demonstration, four neighboring GEO satellites were located and centered in succession with a 3.5-m telescope at a rate of about 16 seconds per satellite.
© (1995) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Ronald J. Lipinski, Dorothy C. Meister, Steve D. Tucker, Phillip Leatherman, Robert Q. Fugate, Carl F. Maes, W. Joseph Lange, William D. Cowan, Richard A. Cleis, James M. Spinhirne, Raymond E. Ruane, Janice Glover, Robert Bruce Michie, Andrew Meulenberg, "Laser beaming demonstrations at the Starfire Optical Range", Proc. SPIE 2376, Laser Power Beaming II, (26 April 1995); doi: 10.1117/12.208207; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.208207
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