Lasers are commonly used in high-precision measurement and profiling systems. Some laser measurement systems are based on interferometry principles, and others are based on active triangulation, depending on requirements of the application. This paper describes an active triangulation laser measurement system for a specific application wherein the relative position of two fixed, rigid mechanical components is to be measured dynamically with high precision in six degrees of freedom (DOF). Potential applications include optical systems with feedback to control for mechanical vibration, such as target acquisition devices with multiple focal planes. The method uses an array of several laser emitters mounted on one component. The lasers are directed at a reflective surface on the second component. The reflective surface consists of a piecewise-planar pattern such as a pyramid, or more generally a curved reflective surface such as a hyperbolic paraboloid. The reflected spots are sensed at 2-dimensional photodiode arrays on the emitter component. Changes in the relative position of the emitter component and reflective surface will shift the location of the reflected spots within photodiode arrays. Relative motion in any degree of freedom produces independent shifts in the reflected spot locations, allowing full six-DOF relative position determination between the two component positions. Response time of the sensor is limited by the read-out rate of the photodiode arrays. Algorithms are given for position determination with limits on uncertainty and sensitivity, based on laser and spot-sensor characteristics, and assuming regular surfaces. Additional uncertainty analysis is achievable for surface irregularities based on calibration data.
We report on laboratory studies of the effectiveness of directed energy planetary defense as a part of the DESTAR (Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation) program. DE-STAR  and DE-STARLITE  are directed energy "stand-off" and "stand-on" programs, respectively. These systems consist of a modular array of kilowatt-class lasers powered by photovoltaics, and are capable of heating a spot on the surface of an asteroid to the point of vaporization. Mass ejection, as a plume of evaporated material, creates a reactionary thrust capable of diverting the asteroid’s orbit. In a series of papers, we have developed a theoretical basis and described numerical simulations for determining the thrust produced by material evaporating from the surface of an asteroid . In the DE-STAR concept, the asteroid itself is used as the deflection "propellant". This study presents results of experiments designed to measure the thrust created by evaporation from a laser directed energy spot. We constructed a vacuum chamber to simulate space conditions, and installed a torsion balance that holds an "asteroid" sample. The sample is illuminated with a fiber array laser with flux levels up to 60 MW/m2 which allows us to simulate a mission level flux but on a small scale. We use a separate laser as well as a position sensitive centroid detector to readout the angular motion of the torsion balance and can thus determine the thrust. We compare the measured thrust to the models. Our theoretical models indicate a coupling coefficient well in excess of 100 μN/Woptical, though we assume a more conservative value of 80 μN/Woptical and then degrade this with an optical "encircled energy" efficiency of 0.75 to 60 μN/Woptical in our deflection modeling. Our measurements discussed here yield about 45 μN/Wabsorbed as a reasonable lower limit to the thrust per optical watt absorbed.
Arrays of phase-locked lasers have been developed for numerous directed-energy applications. Phased-array designs are capable of producing higher beam intensity than similar sized multi-beam emitters, and also allow beam steering and beam profile manipulation. In phased-array designs, individual emitter phases must be controllable, based on suitable feedback. Most current control schemes sample individual emitter phases, such as with an array-wide beam splitter, and compare to a master phase reference. Reliance on a global beam splitter limits scalability to larger array sizes due to lack of design modularity. This paper describes a conceptual design and control scheme that relies only on feedback from the array structure itself. A modular and scalable geometry is based on individual hexagonal frames for each emitter; each frame cell consists of a conventional lens mounted in front of the fiber tip. A rigid phase tap structure physically connects two adjacent emitter frame cells. A target sensor is mounted on top of the phase tap, representing the local alignment datum. Optical sensors measure the relative position of the phase tap and target sensor. The tap senses the exit phase of both emitters relative to the target normal plane, providing information to the phase controller for each emitter. As elements are added to the array, relative local position data between adjacent phase taps allows accurate prediction of the relative global position of emitters across the array, providing additional constraints to the phase controllers. The approach is scalable for target distance and number of emitters without loss of control.
On 15 February 2013, a previously unknown ~20 m asteroid struck Earth near Chelyabinsk, Russia, releasing kinetic energy equivalent to ~570 kt TNT. Detecting objects like the Chelyabinsk impactor that are orbiting near Earth is a difficult task, in part because such objects spend much of their own orbits in the direction of the Sun when viewed from Earth. Efforts aimed at protecting Earth from future impacts will rely heavily on continued discovery. Ground-based optical observatory networks and Earth-orbiting spacecraft with infrared sensors have dramatically increased the pace of discovery. Still, less than 5% of near-Earth objects (NEOs) ≥100 m/~100 Mt TNT have been identified, and the proportion of known objects decreases rapidly for smaller sizes. Low emissivity of some objects also makes detection by passive sensors difficult. A proposed orbiting laser phased array directed energy system could be used for active illumination of NEOs, enhancing discovery particularly for smaller and lower emissivity objects. Laser fiber amplifiers emit very narrow-band energy, simplifying detection. Results of simulated illumination scenarios are presented based on an orbiting emitter array with specified characteristics. Simulations indicate that return signals from small and low emissivity objects is strong enough to detect. The possibility for both directed and full sky blind surveys is discussed, and the resulting diameter and mass limits for objects in different observational scenarios. The ability to determine both position and speed of detected objects is also discussed.
This paper presents the motivation behind and design of a directed energy planetary defense system that utilizes laser ablation of an asteroid to impart a deflecting force on the target. The proposed system is called DE-STARLITE for Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and ExploRation – LITE as it is a small, stand-on unit of a larger standoff DE-STAR system. Pursuant to the stand-on design, ion engines will propel the spacecraft from low-Earth orbit (LEO) to the near-Earth asteroid (NEA). During laser ablation, the asteroid itself becomes the "propellant"; thus a very modest spacecraft can deflect an asteroid much larger than would be possible with a system of similar mission mass using ion beam deflection (IBD) or a gravity tractor. DE-STARLITE is capable of deflecting an Apophis-class (325 m diameter) asteroid with a 15-year targeting time. The mission fits within the rough mission parameters of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) program in terms of mass and size and has much greater capability for planetary defense than current proposals and is readily scalable to the threat. It can deflect all known threats with sufficient warning.
We present results of optical simulations for a laser phased array directed energy system. The laser array consists of individual optical elements in a square or hexagonal array. In a multi-element array, the far-field beam pattern depends on both mechanical pointing stability and on phase relationships between individual elements. The simulation incorporates realistic pointing and phase errors. Pointing error components include systematic offsets to simulate manufacturing and assembly variations. Pointing also includes time-varying errors that simulate structural vibrations, informed from random vibration analysis of the mechanical design. Phase errors include systematic offsets, and time-varying errors due to both mechanical vibration and temperature variation in the fibers. The optical simulation is used to determine beam pattern and pointing jitter over a range of composite error inputs. Results are also presented for a 1 m aperture array with 10 kW total power, designed as a stand-off system on a dedicated asteroid diversion/capture mission that seeks to evaporate the surface of the target at a distance of beyond 10 km. Phase stability across the array of λ/10 is shown to provide beam control that is sufficient to vaporize the surface of a target at 10 km. The model is also a useful tool for characterizing performance for phase controller design in relation to beam formation and pointing.
Asteroids that threaten Earth could be deflected from their orbits using laser directed energy or concentrated solar energy to vaporize the surface; the ejected plume would create a reaction thrust that pushes the object away from its collision course with Earth. One concern regarding directed energy deflection approaches is that asteroids rotate as they orbit the Sun. Asteroid rotation reduces the average thrust and changes the thrust vector imparting a time profile to the thrust. A directed energy system must deliver sufficient flux to evaporate surface material even when the asteroid is rotating. Required flux levels depend on surface material composition and albedo, thermal and bulk mechanical properties of the asteroid, and asteroid rotation rate. In the present work we present results of simulations for directed energy ejecta-plume asteroid threat mitigation. We use the observed distribution of asteroid rotational rates, along with a range of material and mechanical properties, as input to a thermal-physical model of plume generation. We calculate the expected thrust profile for rotating objects. Standoff directed energy schemes that deliver at least 10 MW/m2 generate significant thrust for all but the highest conceivable rotation rates.
Asteroids and comets that cross Earth’s orbit pose a credible risk of impact, with potentially severe disturbances to Earth and society. We propose an orbital planetary defense system capable of heating the surface of potentially hazardous objects to the vaporization point as a feasible approach to impact risk mitigation. We call the system DE-STAR, for Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation. The DE-STAR is a modular-phased array of kilowatt class lasers powered by photovoltaic’s. Modular design allows for incremental development, minimizing risk, and allowing for technological codevelopment. An orbiting structure would be developed in stages. The main objective of the DE-STAR is to use focused directed energy to raise the surface spot temperature to ∼3000 K, sufficient to vaporize all known substances. Ejection of evaporated material creates a large reaction force that would alter an asteroid’s orbit. The baseline system is a DE-STAR 3 or 4 (1- to 10-km array) depending on the degree of protection desired. A DE-STAR 4 allows initial engagement beyond 1 AU with a spot temperature sufficient to completely evaporate up to 500-m diameter asteroids in 1 year. Small objects can be diverted with a DE-STAR 2 (100 m) while space debris is vaporized with a DE-STAR 1 (10 m).
Asteroids and comets that cross Earth’s orbit pose a credible risk of impact, with potentially severe disturbances to Earth and society. Numerous risk mitigation strategies have been described, most involving dedicated missions to a threatening object. We propose an orbital planetary defense system capable of heating the surface of potentially hazardous objects to the vaporization point as a feasible approach to impact risk mitigation. We call the system DE-STAR for Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation. DE-STAR is a modular phased array of kilowatt class lasers powered by photovoltaic's. Modular design allows for incremental development, test, and initial deployment, lowering cost, minimizing risk, and allowing for technological co-development, leading eventually to an orbiting structure that would be developed in stages with both technological and target milestones. The main objective of DE-STAR is to use the focused directed energy to raise the surface spot temperature to ~3,000K, allowing direct vaporization of all known substances. In the process of heating the surface ejecting evaporated material a large reaction force would alter the asteroid’s orbit. The baseline system is a DE-STAR 3 or 4 (1-10km array) depending on the degree of protection desired. A DE-STAR 4 allows for asteroid engagement starting beyond 1AU with a spot temperature sufficient to completely evaporate up to 500-m diameter asteroids in one year. Small asteroids and comets can be diverted/evaporated with a DESTAR 2 (100m) while space debris is vaporized with a DE-STAR 1 (10m).
Current strategies for diverting threatening asteroids require dedicated operations for every individual object. We propose a stand-off, Earth-orbiting system capable of vaporizing the surface of asteroids as a futuristic but feasible approach to impact risk mitigation. We call the system DE-STAR (Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation). DE-STAR is a modular phased array of laser amplifiers, powered by solar photovoltaic panels. Lowcost development of test systems is possible with existing technology. Larger arrays could be tested in sub-orbital demonstrations, leading eventually to an orbiting system. Design requirements are established by seeking to vaporize the surface of an asteroid, with ejected material creating a reaction force to alter the asteroid’s orbit. A proposed system goal would be to raise the surface spot temperature to <3,000K, evaporating all known substances. Engagement distance required for successful diversion depends on the asteroid’s mass, composition and approach velocity. Distance to focus and desired surface spot temperature then determine laser array size. Volatile-laden objects (such as comets) ~100m wide and approaching at 5km/s could be diverted by initiating engagement at ~0.05AU, requiring a laser array of ~100m side length. Phased array configuration allows multiple beams, so a single DE-STAR of sufficient size would be capable of targeting several threats simultaneously. An orbiting DE-STAR could serve diverse scientific objectives, such as propulsion of kinetic asteroid interceptors or other interplanetary spacecraft. Vaporization of debris in Earth orbit could be accomplished with a ~10m array. Beyond the primary task of Earth defense, numerous functions are envisioned.
We present work on the development of a long range standoff concealed weapons detection system capable of imaging
under very heavy clothing at distances exceeding 100 m with a cm resolution. The system is based off a combination of
phased array technologies used in radio astronomy and SAR radar by using a coherent, multi-frequency reconstruction
algorithm which can run at up to 1000 Hz frame rates and high SNR with a multi-tone transceiver. We show the flexible
design space of our system as well as algorithm development, predicted system performance and impairments, and
simulated reconstructed images. The system can be used for a variety of purposes including portal applications, crowd
scanning and tactical situations. Additional uses include seeing through dust and fog.
THz medical imaging has been a topic of increased interest recently due largely to improvements in source and detector
technology and the identification of suitable applications. One aspect of THz medical imaging research not often
adequately addressed is pixel acquisition rate and phenomenology. The majority of active THz imaging systems use
translation stages to raster scan a sample beneath a fixed THz beam. While these techniques have produced high
resolution images of characterization targets and animal models they do not scale well to human imaging where
clinicians are unwilling to place patients on large translation stages. This paper presents a scanned beam THz imaging
system that can acquire a 1 cm2 area with 1 mm2 pixels and a per-pixel SNR of 40 dB in less than 5 seconds. The system
translates a focused THz beam across a stationary target using a spinning polygonal mirror and HDPE objective lens.
The illumination is centered at 525 GHz with ~ 125 GHz of response normalized bandwidth and the component layout is
designed to optically co-locate the stationary source and detector ensuring normal incidence across a 50 mm × 50 mm
field of view at standoff of 190 mm. Component characterization and images of a test target are presented. These
results are some of the first ever reported for a short standoff, high resolution, scanned beam THz imaging system and
represent an important step forward for practical integration of THz medical imaging where fast image acquisition times
and stationary targets (patients) are requisite.
Reflective terahertz (THz) imaging may potentially become a valuable tool in determining skin hydration due to its non-ionizing photon energy, high sensitivity to water concentration and ability to penetrate through clothing. The high absorption coefficient of water in the THz range is responsible for contrast between substances with lesser or higher degrees of water saturation. Water content, as well as collagen fiber arrangement, varies between different layers of skin. This study sought to determine whether the high THz absorption in water could be exploited to distinguish between these layers. Porcine skin specimens were sectioned into samples of increasing thickness, with the undersides corresponding to different layers in skin. The undersides of the samples were scanned using a THz imaging system operating at a center frequency of 0.5 THz with 0.125 THz of noise-equivalent bandwidth at a standoff of 4 cm and a spot size of 13 mm. Collagen solutions of varying hydrations were also prepared and raster scanned with the same system. The reflectivity of the deeper layers of skin was found to be higher than that of the upper layers, indicating that the deeper layers are more hydrated. The collagen solutions with higher hydration also had higher THz reflectivity. These results suggested that THz is able to distinguish between different layers of skin based on water content and the nature of its association with components in skin.
Terahertz medical imaging has emerged as a promising new field because of its non-ionizing photon energy
and its acute sensitivity to water concentration. To better understand the primary contrast mechanism in
THz imaging of tissues, the reflectivity of varying water concentrations was measured. Using a pulsed THz
reflective imaging system, a 0.3 mm thin paper sample with varying water concentrations was probed and
from the measured data a noise equivalent delta water concentration (NEΔWC) of 0.054% was derived.
The system is based on a photoconductive pulsed source and time-gated waveguide-mounted Schottky
diode receiver. It operates at a center frequency of 500 GHz with 125 GHz of noise-equivalent bandwidth
and at a standoff of 4 cm, the imaging system achieved a spot size of 2.2 mm. The high water sensitivity of
this system was exploited to image burned porcine (pig) skin models in reflection using differences in
water content of burned and unburned skin as the contrast mechanism. The obtained images of the porcine
skin burns are a step towards the ability to quantify burn injuries using THz radiation.