15 March 2016 LEO-to-ground optical communications link using adaptive optics correction on the OPALS downlink
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The Optical PAyload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) experiment on the International Space Station (ISS) recently demonstrated successful optical downlinks to the NASA/JPL 1-m aperture telescope at the Optical Communication Telescope Laboratory (OCTL) located near Wrightwood, CA. A large area (200 μm diameter) free space coupled avalanche photodiode (APD) detector was used to receive video and a bit patterns at 50 Mb/s. We report on a recent experiment that used an adaptive optics system at OCTL to correct for atmospherically-induced refractive index fluctuations so that the downlink from the ISS could be coupled into a single mode fiber receiver. Stable fiber coupled power was achieved over an entire pass using a self-referencing interferometer based adaptive optics system that was provided and operated by Boeing Co. and integrated to OCTL. End-to-end transmission and reconstruction of an HD video signal verified the communication performance as in the original OPALS demonstration. Coupling the signal into a single mode fiber opens the possibility for higher bandwidth and efficiency modulation schemes and serves as a pilot experiment for future implementations.
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Malcolm W. Wright, Joseph Kovalik, Jeff Morris, Matthew Abrahamson, Abhijit Biswas, "LEO-to-ground optical communications link using adaptive optics correction on the OPALS downlink", Proc. SPIE 9739, Free-Space Laser Communication and Atmospheric Propagation XXVIII, 973904 (15 March 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2211201; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2211201

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