Reliable high energy laser sources had been proven in the past to be the bottle neck for space-borne LIDAR instruments. The presented FULAS laser optical design concept and the developed technologies define a technology baseline for a high variety of potential LIDAR applications. The technology provides a reliable space compatible system design, optimized with respect to lifetime and in especial laser induced contamination. The applied design principles and modularity allow proven energy scalability, flexible modes of operation and a manifold of opportunities for tailoring of the output wavelength. The concept, some details of the design and the potential for future application are addressed in this publication
For a spaceborne lidar a highly reliable, long living and efficient laser source is absolutely essential. Within the frame of the development of a laser source for the backscatter lidar ATLID, which will be flown on EarthCare mission, we setup and tested a predevelopment model of an injection-seeded, diode pumped, frequency tripled, pulsed high power Nd:YAG MOPA laser operating nominally at 100 Hz pulse repetition frequency. We also tested the burst operation mode. The excellent measured performance parameter will be introduced.
The oscillator rod is longitudinally pumped from both sides. The oscillator has been operated with three cavity control methods: "Cavity Dither", "Pound-Drever-Hall" and "Adaptive Ramp & Fire". Especially the latter method is very suitable to operate the laser in harsh vibrating environment such in airplanes.
The amplifier bases on the InnoSlab design concept. The constant keeping of a moderate fluence in the InnoSlab crystal permits excellent possibilities to scale the pulse energy to several 100 mJ. An innovative pump unit and optics makes the laser performance insensitive to inhomogeneous diode degradation and allows switching of additional redundant diodes.
Further key features have been implemented in a FM design concept. The operational lifetime is extended by the implementation of internal redundancies for the most critical parts. The reliability is increased due to the higher margin onto the laser induced damage threshold by a pressurized housing. Additionally air-to-vacuum effects becomes obsolete. A high efficient heat removal concept has been implemented.
For atmospheric LIDAR instruments in space, a manifold of scientific applications exists. But due to the lack of high energy laser sources providing the performance, reliability and lifetime necessary to operate such instruments in space, realization is currently seen as still very critical in the community.
For space-borne atmospheric LIDAR instruments, a manifold of scientific applications exists. But due to the lack of high energy laser sources providing the performance, reliability and lifetime necessary to operate such instruments in space, realization is seen by the community as still very critical.
Spaceborne atmospheric LIDAR instruments enable the global measurement of aerosols, wind and greenhouse gases like CO2, Methane and Water.
These LIDAR instruments require a pulsed single frequency laser source with emission at a specific wavelength. Pulse energies in the 10 mJ or 100 mJ range are required at bandwidth limited pulse durations in the multi-10 ns range. Pulse repetition rate requirements are typically around 100 Hz but may range from 10 Hz to some kHz. High efficiency is mandatory.
Building complex laser sources providing the performance, reliability and lifetime necessary to operate such instruments in space has been recognized to be still very challenging.
To overcome this, in the frame of the FULAS technology development project - funded by ESA and supported by the German Aerospace Center DLR - a versatile platform for LIDAR sources has been developed. For demonstration the requirements of the laser source in the ATLID instrument have been chosen.
The design is based on a single frequency seeded, actively Q-switched, diode pumped Nd:YAG laser oscillator and an InnoSlab power amplifier with frequency tripling. The laser architecture pays special attention on Laser Induced Contamination by avoiding critical organic and outgassing materials. Soldering technologies for mounting and alignment of optics provide high mechanical stability and superior reliability.
The FULAS infrared section has been assembled and integrated into a pressurized housing. The optical performance at 1064 nm has been demonstrated and thermal vacuum tests have been carried out successfully providing relevant data for the French-German climate mission MERLIN.
For the CO2 and CH4 IPDA lidar CHARM-F two single frequency Nd:YAG based MOPA systems were developed. Both lasers are used for OPO/OPA-pumping in order to generate laser radiation at 1645 nm for CH4 detection and 1572 nm for CO2 detection. By the use of a Q-switched, injection seeded and actively length-stabilized oscillator and a one-stage INNOSLAB amplifier about 85 mJ pulse energy could be generated for the CH4 system. For the CO2 system the energy was boosted in second INNOSLAB-stage to about 150 mJ. Both lasers emit laser pulses of about 30 ns pulse duration at a repetition rate of 100 Hz.
In this paper we present the development of a compact, thermo-optically stable and vibration and mechanical shock
resistant mounting technique by soldering of optical components. Based on this technique a new generation of laser
sources for aerospace applications is designed. In these laser systems solder technique replaces the glued and bolted
connections between optical component, mount and base plate. Alignment precision in the arc second range and
realization of long term stability of every single part in the laser system is the main challenge.
At the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT a soldering and mounting technique has been developed for high
precision packaging. The specified environmental boundary conditions (e.g. a temperature range of -40 °C to +50 °C)
and the required degrees of freedom for the alignment of the components have been taken into account for this technique.
In general the advantage of soldering compared to gluing is that there is no outgassing. In addition no flux is needed in
our special process. The joining process allows multiple alignments by remelting the solder. The alignment is done in the
liquid phase of the solder by a 6 axis manipulator with a step width in the nm range and a tilt in the arc second range. In a
next step the optical components have to pass the environmental tests. The total misalignment of the component to its
adapter after the thermal cycle tests is less than 10 arc seconds. The mechanical stability tests regarding shear, vibration
and shock behavior are well within the requirements.
The passive-alignment-packaging technique presented in this work provides a method for mounting tolerance-insensitive
optical components e.g. non-linear crystals by means of mechanical stops. The requested tolerances for the angle
deviation are ±100 μrad and for the position tolerance ±100 μm. Only the angle tolerances were investigated, because
they are more critical. The measurements were carried out with an autocollimator. Fused silica components were used
for test series. A solder investigation was carried out. Different types of solder were tested. Due to good solderability on
air and low induced stress in optical components, Sn based solders were indicated as the most suitable solders. In
addition several concepts of reflow soldering configuration were realized. In the first iteration a system with only the
alignment of the yaw angle was implemented. The deviation for all materials after the thermal and mechanical cycling
was within the tolerances. The solderability of BBO and LBO crystals was investigated and concepts for mounting were
For spaceborne lidar like the atmospheric backscatter lidar (e.g. ATLID on the ESA EarthCARE mission) highly reliable and efficient laser sources are needed. As pre-development model we realized a Nd:YAG MOPA diode pumped at 100 Hz. With more than 21 % optical-optical efficiency the amplifier based on the InnoSlab design raises the 8 mJ pulse energy from the single frequency rod oscillator to more than 70 mJ. Frequency-tripling leads to more than 25 mJ at 355 nm and a beam quality of M2 < 1.7. The total optical-optical efficiency of more than 7.5 % exceeds the efficiency of comparable current lidar transmitter systems at least by a factor of 2. The laser is designed to cope with diode degradation or failure. Moderate pulse intensities in the InnoSlab amplifier offer excellent possibilities to scale the pulse energy to several 100 mJ in a most reliable and efficient way.
Lidar Systems for the measurement of three-dimensional wind or cloud and aerosol formations in the earth atmosphere
require highly stable pulsed single frequency laser systems with a narrow line width. The lasers for ESAs ADM-Aeolus
and EarthCARE missions require frequency stabilities of 4 and 10 MHz rms at a wavelength of 355 nm and a line width
below 50 MHz at 30 ns pulse duration. Transferred to the fundamental wavelength of the laser systems the stability
requirement is 1.3 and 3.3 MHz, respectively. In comparison to ground based lidar systems the vibrational load on the
laser system is much higher in airborne and spaceborne systems, especially at high frequencies of some hundred Hertz or
even some kHz. Suitable frequency stabilisation methods have therefore to be able to suppress these vibrations
sufficiently. The often used Pulse-Build-up method is not suitable, due to its very limited capability to suppress vibration
frequencies of the order of the pulse repetition frequency.
In this study the performance of three frequency stabilisation methods in principle capable to meet the requirements, the
cavity dither method, the modified Pound-Drever-Hall method and a modified Ramp-Fire method - named Ramp-Delay-
Fire - is theoretically and experimentally investigated and compared.
The investigation is performed on highly efficient, passively cooled, diode end-pumped q-switched Nd:YAG oscillators,
which are breadboard versions of the A2D (ADM-Aeolus) and possible ATLAS (EarthCARE) oscillators. They deliver
diffraction limited output pulses with up to 12 mJ pulse energy at a pulse duration of 30 ns and 100 Hz pulse repetition
A Master-Oscillator-Power-Amplifier (MOPA) design combining rod and slab laser technology for high pulse energy, high average power and near diffraction limited beam quality for industrial use has been developed. To achieve the good beam quality at high average and high pulse power, an advanced birefringence compensation scheme, which ensures a high mode overlap while simultaneously minimizing the power densities on optical surfaces, has been developed and applied. The prototypes deliver an average power of up to 860 W with M2 < 2 or 1.3 kW with M2 < 12 at 10 kHz repetition rate and 5-16 ns pulse duration. At 1 kHz up to 420 mJ pulse energy can be achieved. The prototypes are fully computer controlled and can be operated from 0 to 100 % output power and from single shot to 10 kHz. They are currently operated for plasma generation in a laboratory surrounding and have run for more than one thousand hours without failure up to now. An analytical solution of the thermally induced refractive index profile in dependency of a radially symmetric pump light distribution including the effect of thermally induced birefringence, temperature dependency of the thermal conductivity and the second derivative of the refractive index with the temperature (d2n/dT2) has been derived. This allows a fast calculation of thermally induced aberrations without the use of FEA. Experimental results are compared to predictions from analytical and FEA modelling. Based on experimental and theoretical results, scaling limits of rod based MOPAs are predicted.