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22 January 2010 Photon-counting detectors for space-based laser receivers
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Photon-counting detectors are required for numerous NASA future space-based laser receivers including science instruments and free-space optical communication terminals. Silicon avalanche photodiode (APD) single photon counting modules (SPCMs) are used in the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) on Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) launched in 2003, currently in orbit measuring the Earth surface elevation and atmosphere backscattering. To measure cloud and aerosol backscattering, the SPCMs detect the GLAS laser light at 532-nm wavelength, with quantum efficiencies of 60 to 70% and maximum count rates greater than 13 million per second. The performance of the SPCMs has been monitored since ICESat launch on January 12, 2003. There has been no measurable change in the quantum efficiency, linearity or after-pulsing. The detector dark counts rates monitored while the spacecraft was in the dark side of the Earth have increased linearly at about 60 counts/s per day due to space radiation damage. As the ICESat mission nears completion, we have proposed ground-to-space optical and quantum communication experiments to utilize the on-orbit 1-meter optical receiver telescope with multiple SPCMs in the focal plane. NASA is preparing a follow-on mission to ICESat, called ICESat-2, with a launch date of late 2014. The major candidate photon-counting detectors under evaluation for ICESat-2 include 532 nm and 1064 nm wavelength-sensitive photomultiplier tubes and Geiger-mode avalanche photodiode arrays. Key specifications are high maximum count rate, detection efficiency, photon number resolution, radiation tolerance, power consumption, operating temperature and reliability. Future NASA science instruments and free-space laser communication terminals share a number of these requirements.
© (2010) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Michael A. Krainak, Anthony W. Yu, Guangning Yang, Steven X. Li, and Xiaoli Sun "Photon-counting detectors for space-based laser receivers", Proc. SPIE 7608, Quantum Sensing and Nanophotonic Devices VII, 760827 (22 January 2010);


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