Topographic mapping lidar instruments must be able to detect extremely weak laser return signals from high altitudes
including orbital distance. The signals have a wide dynamic range caused by the variability in atmospheric transmission
and surface reflectance under a fast moving spacecraft. Ideally, lidar detectors should be able to detect laser signal return
pulses at the single photon level and produce linear output for multiple photon events. Silicon avalanche photodiode
(APD) detectors have been used in most space lidar receivers to date. Their sensitivity is typically hundreds of photons
per pulse, and is limited by the quantum efficiency, APD gain noise, dark current, and preamplifier noise. NASA is
pursuing three approaches for a 16-channel laser photoreceiver for use on the next generation direct-detection airborne
and spaceborne lidars. We present our measurement results and a comparison of their performance.
An overview of the Intensified Photodiode (IPD) is presented with an emphasis on IPDs optimized for use in the 950nm to 1350nm spectral range for single photon detection applications. The theory of operation of the IPD, two different electron optics designs, and device performance for a multichannel, 4x4 pixel array, low jitter IPD optimized for operation at 1060nm are presented in this paper. Key results include greater than 15% quantum efficiency, large active area, and less than 550ps impulse response.