19 September 2016 Target tracking and pointing for arrays of phase-locked lasers
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Abstract
Arrays of phase-locked lasers are envisioned for planetary defense and exploration systems. High-energy beams focused on a threatening asteroid evaporate surface material, creating a reactionary thrust that alters the asteroid’s orbit. The same system could be used to probe an asteroid’s composition, to search for unknown asteroids, and to propel interplanetary and interstellar spacecraft. Phased-array designs are capable of producing high beam intensity, and allow beam steering and beam profile manipulation. Modular designs allow ongoing addition of emitter elements to a growing array. This paper discusses pointing control for extensible laser arrays. Rough pointing is determined by spacecraft attitude control. Lateral movement of the laser emitter tips behind the optical elements provides intermediate pointing adjustment for individual array elements and beam steering. Precision beam steering and beam formation is accomplished by coordinated phase modulation across the array. Added cells are incorporated into the phase control scheme by precise alignment to local mechanical datums using fast, optical relative position sensors. Infrared target sensors are also positioned within the datum scheme, and provide information about the target vector relative to datum coordinates at each emitter. Multiple target sensors allow refined determination of the target normal plane, providing information to the phase controller for each emitter. As emitters and sensors are added, local position data allows accurate prediction of the relative global position of emitters across the array, providing additional constraints to the phase controllers. Mechanical design and associated phase control that is scalable for target distance and number of emitters is presented.
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Van P. Macasaet, Van P. Macasaet, Gary B. Hughes, Gary B. Hughes, Philip Lubin, Philip Lubin, Jonathan Madajian, Jonathan Madajian, Qicheng Zhang, Qicheng Zhang, Janelle Griswold, Janelle Griswold, Neeraj Kulkarni, Neeraj Kulkarni, Alexander Cohen, Alexander Cohen, Travis Brashears, Travis Brashears, "Target tracking and pointing for arrays of phase-locked lasers", Proc. SPIE 9981, Planetary Defense and Space Environment Applications, 998102 (19 September 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2237694; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2237694
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