NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has been developing lidar to remotely measure CO2 and CH4 in the Earth’s atmosphere. The ultimate goal is to make space-based satellite measurements with global coverage. We are working on maturing the technology readiness of a fiber-based, 1.57-micron wavelength laser transmitter designed for use in atmospheric CO2 remote-sensing. To this end, we are building a ruggedized prototype to demonstrate the required power and performance and survive the required environment.
We are building a fiber-based master oscillator power amplifier (MOPA) laser transmitter architecture. The laser is a wavelength-locked, single frequency, externally modulated DBR operating at 1.57-micron followed by erbium-doped fiber amplifiers. The last amplifier stage is a polarization-maintaining, very-large-mode-area fiber with ~1000 μm2 effective area pumped by a Raman fiber laser. The optical output is single-frequency, one microsecond pulses with >450 μJ pulse energy, 7.5 KHz repetition rate, single spatial mode, and < 20 dB polarization extinction.
A highly stable and robust laser system is a key component of the space-based Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission, which is designed to detect gravitational waves from various astronomical sources. The baseline architecture for the LISA laser consists of a low-power, low-noise Nd:YAG non-planar ring oscillator (NPRO) followed by a diode-pumped Yb-fiber amplifier with ∼2 W output. We are developing such laser system at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), as well as investigating other laser options. In this paper, we will describe our progress to date and plans to demonstrate a technology readiness level (TRL) 6 LISA laser system.
We propose a nadir-pointing space-based Na Doppler resonance fluorescence LIDAR on board of the International Space Station (ISS). The science instrument goal is temperature and vertical wind measurements of the Earth Mesosphere Lower Thermosphere (MLT) 75-115 km region using atomic sodium as a tracer. Our instrument concept uses a high-energy laser transmitter at 589 nm and highly sensitive photon counting detectors that permit range-resolved atmospheric-sodium-temperature profiles. The atmospheric temperature is deduced from the linewidth of the resonant fluorescence from the atomic sodium vapor D2 line as measured by our tunable laser. We are pursuing high power laser architectures that permit limited day time sodium lidar observations with the help of a narrow bandpass etalon filter. We discuss technology, prototypes, risks and trades for two 589 nm wavelength laser architectures: 1) Raman laser 2) Sum Frequency Generation. Laser-induced saturation of atomic sodium in the MLT region affects both sodium density and temperature measurements. We discuss the saturation impact on the laser parameters, laser architecture and instrument trades. Off-nadir pointing from the ISS causes Doppler shifts that effect the sodium spectroscopy. We discuss laser wavelength locking, tuning and spectroscopic-line sampling strategy.
We are developing a Q-switched narrow linewidth intra-cavity Raman laser for a space based sodium lidar application. A novel Raman laser injection seeding scheme is proposed and is experimentally verified. A Q-switched, diode pumped, c-cut Nd:YVO4 laser has been designed to emit a fundamental wavelength at 1066.6 nm. This fundamental wavelength is used as the pump in an intra-cavity Raman conversion in a Gd0.2Y0.8VO4 composite material. By tuning the temperature of the crystal, we tuned the Raman shifting to the desired sodium absorption line.
A diode end pumped, T-shaped laser cavity has been built for experimental investigation. The fundamental pump laser cavity is a twisted mode cavity to eliminate the spatial hole burning for effective injection seeding. The Raman laser cavity is a linear standing wave cavity because Raman gain medium does not suffer spatial hole burning as traditional laser gain medium. The linewidth and temporal profile of the Raman laser is experimentally investigated with narrow and broadband fundamental pump emission. We have, for the first time, demonstrated an injection seeded, high peak power, narrow linewidth intra-cavity Raman laser for potential use in a sodium resonance fluorescence lidar.
Trace gases and their isotopic ratios in planetary atmospheres offer important but subtle clues as to the origins of a planet's atmosphere, hydrology, geology, and potential for biology. An orbiting laser remote sensing instrument is capable of measuring trace gases on a global scale with unprecedented accuracy, and higher spatial resolution that can be obtained by passive instruments.
For Earth we have developed laser technique for the remote measurement of the tropospheric CO2, O2, and CH4 concentrations from space. Our goal is to develop a space instrument and mission approach for active CO2 measurements. Our technique uses several on and off-line wavelengths tuned to the CO2 and O2 absorption lines. This exploits the atmospheric pressure broadening of the gas lines to weigh the measurement sensitivity to the atmospheric column below 5 km and maximizes sensitivity to CO2 changes in the boundary layer where variations caused by surface sources and sinks are largest. Simultaneous measurements of O2 column use a selected region in the Oxygen A-band. Laser altimetry and atmospheric backscatter can also be measured simultaneously, which permits determining the surface height and measurements made to thick cloud tops and through aerosol layers.
We use the same technique but with a different transmitter at 1.65 um to measure methane concentrations. Methane is also a very important trace gas on earth, and a stronger greenhouse gas than CO2 on a per molecule basis. Accurate, global observations are needed in order to better understand climate change and reduce the uncertainty in the carbon budget. Although carbon dioxide is currently the primary greenhouse gas of interest, methane can have a much larger impact on climate change. Methane levels have remained relatively constant over the last decade but recent observations in the Arctic have indicated that levels may be on the rise due to permafrost thawing. NASA’s Decadal Survey underscored the importance of Methane as a greenhouse gas and called for a mission to measure CO2, CO and CH4. Methane has absorptions in the mid-infrared (3.3 um) and the near infrared (1.65 um). The 3.3 um spectral region is ideal for planetary (Mars) Methane monitoring, but unfortunately is not suitable for earth monitoring since the Methane absorption lines are severely interfered with by water. The near infra-red overtones of Methane at 1.65 um are relatively free of interference from other atmospheric species and are suitable for Earth observations. The methane instrument uses Optical Parametric Generation (OPG) along with sensitive detectors to achieve the necessary sensitivity. Our instrument generates and detects tunable laser signals in the 3.3 or 1.65 um spectral regions with different detectors in order to measure methane on Earth or Mars. For Mars, the main interest in methane is its importance as a biogenic marker.
We report on an airborne demonstration of atmospheric methane (CH4) measurements with an integrated path differential absorption lidar using an optical parametric amplifier and optical parametric oscillator laser transmitter and sensitive avalanche photodiode detector. The lidar measures the atmospheric CH4 absorption at multiple, discrete wavelengths near 1650.96 nm. The instrument was deployed in the fall of 2015, aboard NASA’s DC-8 airborne laboratory along with an in situ spectrometer and measured CH4 over a wide range of surfaces and atmospheric conditions from altitudes of 2 to 13 km. We will show the results from our flights, compare the performance of the two laser transmitters, and identify areas of improvement for the lidar.
Atmospheric methane (CH4) is the second most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas with approximately 25 times the radiative forcing of carbon dioxide (CO2) per molecule. CH4 also contributes to pollution in the lower atmosphere through chemical reactions leading to ozone production. Recent developments of LIDAR measurement technology for CH4 have been previously reported by Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). In this paper, we report on a novel, high-performance tunable semiconductor laser technology developed by Freedom Photonics for the 1650nm wavelength range operation, and for LIDAR detection of CH4. Devices described are monolithic, with simple control, and compatible with low-cost fabrication techniques. We present 3 different types of tunable lasers implemented for this application.
We present a laser technology development with space flight heritage to generate laser wavelengths in the near- to midinfrared (NIR to MIR) for space lidar applications. Integrating an optical parametric crystal to the LOLA (Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter) laser transmitter design affords selective laser wavelengths from NIR to MIR that are not easily obtainable from traditional diode pumped solid-state lasers. By replacing the output coupler of the LOLA laser with a properly designed parametric crystal, we successfully demonstrated a monolithic intra-cavity optical parametric oscillator (iOPO) laser based on all high technology readiness level (TRL) subsystems and components. Several desired wavelengths have been generated including 2.1 µm, 2.7 μm and 3.4 μm. This laser can also be used in trace-gas remote sensing, as many molecules possess their unique vibrational transitions in NIR to MIR wavelength region, as well as in time-of-flight mass spectrometer where desorption of samples using MIR laser wavelengths have been successfully demonstrated
We report on an airborne demonstration of atmospheric methane (CH4) measurements with an Integrated Path Differential Absorption (IPDA) lidar using an optical parametric oscillator (OPO) and optical parametric amplifier (OPA) laser transmitter and a sensitive avalanche photo detector. The lidar measures the CH4 absorption at multiple, discrete wavelengths around 1650.9 nm. In September 2015, the instrument was deployed on NASA’s DC-8 airborne laboratory and measured atmospheric methane over a wide range of topography and weather conditions from altitudes of 3 km to 13 km. In this paper, we will review the results from our flights, and identify areas of improvement.
An optical correlation receiver is described that provides ultra-precise distance and/or time/pulsewidth measurements even for weak (single photons) and short (femtosecond) optical signals. A new type of optical correlation receiver uses a fourth-order (intensity) interferometer to provide micron distance measurements even for weak (single photons) and short (femtosecond) optical signals. The optical correlator uses a low-noise-integrating detector that can resolve photon number. The correlation (range as a function of path delay) is calculated from the variance of the photon number of the difference of the optical signals on the two detectors. Our preliminary proof-of principle data (using a short-pulse diode laser transmitter) demonstrates tens of microns precision.
Atmospheric methane (CH4) is the second most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas, with approximately 25 times the radiative forcing of carbon dioxide (CO2) per molecule. Yet, lack of understanding of the processes that control CH4 sources and sinks and its potential release from stored carbon reservoirs contributes significant uncertainty to our knowledge of the interaction between carbon cycle and climate change. At Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) we have been developing the technology needed to remotely measure CH4 from orbit. Our concept for a CH4 lidar is a nadir viewing instrument that uses the strong laser echoes from the Earth’s surface to measure CH4. The instrument uses a tunable, narrow-frequency light source and photon-sensitive detector to make continuous measurements from orbit, in sunlight and darkness, at all latitudes and can be relatively immune to errors introduced by scattering from clouds and aerosols. Our measurement technique uses Integrated Path Differential Absorption (IPDA), which measures the absorption of laser pulses by a trace gas when tuned to a wavelength coincident with an absorption line. We have already demonstrated ground-based and airborne CH4 detection using Optical Parametric Amplifiers (OPA) at 1651 nm using a laser with approximately 10 μJ/pulse at 5kHz with a narrow linewidth. Next, we will upgrade our OPO system to add several more wavelengths in preparation for our September 2015 airborne campaign, and expect that these upgrades will enable CH4 measurements with 1% precision (10-20 ppb).
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) is working on maturing the technology readiness of a laser transmitter designed for use in atmospheric CO2 remote-sensing. GSFC has been developing an airplane-based CO2 lidar instrument over several years to demonstrate the efficacy of the instrumentation and measurement technique and to link the science models to the instrument performance. The ultimate goal is to make space-based satellite measurements with global coverage. In order to accomplish this, we must demonstrate the technology readiness and performance of the components as well as demonstrate the required power-scaling to make the link with the required signal-to-noise-ratio (SNR). To date, all the instrument components have been shown to have the required performance with the exception of the laser transmitter. In this program we are working on a fiber-based master oscillator power amplifier (MOPA) laser transmitter architecture where we will develop a ruggedized package and perform the relevant environmental tests to demonstrate TRL-6. In this paper we will review our transmitter architecture and progress on the performance and packaging of the laser transmitter.
We demonstrate the airborne measurement of atmospheric methane using a pulsed lidar at 1650 nm using an integrated path differential absorption scheme. Our seeded nanosecond-pulsed optical parametric amplifier (OPA)-based instrument works up to the highest altitudes flown (<10 km). The obtained absorption profile is in good agreement with theoretical predictions based on the HITRAN database.
We report on the development effort of a nanosecond-pulsed optical parametric amplifier (OPA) for remote trace gas measurements for Mars and Earth. The OPA output has ∼500 MHz linewidth and is widely tunable at both near-infrared and mid-infrared wavelengths, with an optical-optical conversion efficiency of up to ∼39% . Using this laser source, we demonstrated open-path measurements of CH 4 (3291 and 1652 nm), CO 2 (1573 nm), H 2 O (1652 nm), and CO (4764 nm) on the ground. The simplicity, tunability, and power scalability of the OPA make it a strong candidate for general planetary lidar instruments, which will offer important information on the origins of the planet's geology, atmosphere, and potential for biology.
We report on ground and airborne atmospheric methane measurements with a differential absorption lidar using an
optical parametric amplifier (OPA). Methane is a strong greenhouse gas on Earth and its accurate global mapping is
urgently needed to understand climate change. We are developing a nanosecond-pulsed OPA for remote measurements
of methane from an Earth-orbiting satellite. We have successfully demonstrated the detection of methane on the ground
and from an airplane at ~11-km altitude.
We present current and near-term uses of high-power fiber lasers and amplifiers for NASA science and spacecraft
applications. Fiber lasers and amplifiers offer numerous advantages for the deployment of instruments on exploration
and science remote sensing satellites. Ground-based and airborne systems provide an evolutionary path to space and a
means for calibration and verification of space-borne systems. NASA fiber-laser-based instruments include laser
sounders and lidars for measuring atmospheric carbon dioxide, oxygen, water vapor and methane and a pulsed or
pseudo-noise (PN) code laser ranging system in the near infrared (NIR) wavelength band. The associated fiber
transmitters include high-power erbium, ytterbium, and neodymium systems and a fiber laser pumped optical parametric
oscillator. We discuss recent experimental progress on these systems and instrument prototypes for ongoing
At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center we are developing next generation laser transmitters for future spaceflight,
remote instruments including a micropulse altimeter for ice-sheet and sea ice monitoring, laser spectroscopic
measurements of atmospheric CO2 and an imaging lidar for high resolution mapping of the Earth's surface. These laser
transmitters also have applicability to potential missions to other solar-system bodies for trace gas measurements and
surface mapping. In this paper we review NASA spaceflight laser transmitters used to acquire measurements in orbit
around Mars, Mercury, Earth and the Moon. We then present an overview of our current spaceflight laser programs and
describe their intended uses for remote sensing science and exploration applications.
At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, we are developing the next generation laser transmitters for future remote
sensing applications including a micropulse altimeter for ice-sheet monitoring, laser spectroscopic measurements and
high resolution mapping of the Earth's surface as well as potential missions to other planets for trace gas measurement
and mapping. In this paper we will present an overview of the spaceborne laser programs and offer insights into future
spaceborne lasers for remote sensing applications.
Trace gases in planetary atmospheres offer important clues as to the origins of the planet's hydrology, geology,
atmosphere, and potential for biology. We report on the development effort of a nanosecond-pulsed optical parametric
amplifier (OPA) for remote trace gas measurements for Mars and Earth. The OPA output light is single frequency with
high spectral purity and is widely tunable both at 1600 nm and 3300 nm with an optical-optical conversion efficiency of
~40%. We demonstrated open-path atmospheric measurements of CH4 (3291 nm and 1651 nm), CO2 (1573 nm), H2O
(1652 nm) with this laser source.
Many fundamental questions about planetary evolution require monitoring of the
planet's atmosphere with unprecedented accuracy at both high and low latitudes, over both
day and night and all seasons. Each planetary atmosphere presents its own unique challenges.
For the planets/moons that have relatively low surface pressure and low trace gas
concentrations, such as Mars or Europa, the challenge is to have enough sensitivity to
measure the trace gas of interest. For Earth, the challenge is to measure trace gases with very
high precision and accuracy in the presence of other interfering species.
An orbiting laser remote sensing instrument is capable of measuring trace gases on a global
scale with unprecedented accuracy, and higher spatial resolution that can be obtained by
passive instruments. For Mars, our proposed measurement uses Optical Parametric
Amplifiers (OPA) and Integrated Path Differential Absorption (IDPA) in the 3-4 um spectral
range to map various trace gas concentrations from orbit on a global scale. For earth, we
propose to use Erbium Doped Fiber Amplifier technology (EDFA) and IDPA at 1.57 and
OPA at 1.65 μm to measure carbon dioxide and methane concentrations respectively.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) has been engaging in Earth and planetary science remote sensing
instruments development for many years. The latest instrument was launched in 2008 to the moon providing the most
detailed topographic map of the lunar surface to-date. NASA GSFC is preparing for several future missions, which for
the first time will perform active spectroscopic measurements from space. In this paper we will review the past, present
and future of space-qualified lasers for remote sensing applications at GSFC.
We report on the development effort of a nanosecond-pulsed seeded optical parametric generator (OPG) for remote trace
gas measurements. The seeded OPG output light is single frequency with high spectral purity and is widely tunable both
at 1600nm and 3300nm with an optical-optical conversion efficiency of ~40%. We demonstrated simultaneous tuning
over the methane (CH4) absorption line at idler wavelength, 3270.4nm, and carbon dioxide (CO2) absorption line at
signal wavelength, 1578.2nm. In this paper, we will also discuss open-path atmospheric measurements with this newly
developed laser source.
In several future space telescope missions, high long-term relative stability between optics is required for testing on the
ground, as well as achieving the sensitivity goal in flight. Typically, thermal and seismic drifts on the ground are on the
order of 1 μm over few hours, orders of magnitude above the testing requirements. To suppress these environmental
motions, we developed a control system that is composed of interferometric sensors and PZT-based actuator. The system
provides a stable environment to allow ground testing of the mission requirements. Our results show that this kind of
system can provide picometer level stability at long timescale and that it should have many applications.