The optical satellite-ground channel is turbulent and causes scintillation of the power received by a ground based telescope. Measurements are important to quantify the effect and evaluate common theory. A telescope with 40 cm primary mirror is used to measure the signals from the OPALS terminal on the International Space Station and the SOTA terminal on the SOCRATES satellite. The measurement instrument is a pupil camera from which images are recorded and intensity scintillation index, power scintillation index, probability density function of intensity and intensity correlation width are derived. A preliminary analysis of measurements from three satellite passed is performed, presented and discussed. The intensity scintillation index ranges from ~0.25 to ~0.03 within elevations of 26 to 66 deg. Power scintillation index varies from ~0.08 to ~0.006 and correlation width of intensity between ~11 and ~3 cm. The measurements can be used to estimate the fluctuation dynamics to be expected for a future operational ground receiver. The measurements are compared to model calculations based on the HV<sub>5/7-</sub>profile. Good agreement is observed to some part in the intensity scintillation index. Agreement is less for the power scintillation index and intensity correlation width. The reason seems to be a reduction of aperture averaging in some sections of the measurements due to increased speckle size. Finally, topics for future work are identified to improve the measurement analysis and deeper investigate the origin of the observed behavior.
The Optical PAyload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) experiment on the International Space Station (ISS) recently demonstrated successful optical downlinks to the NASA/JPL 1-m aperture telescope at the Optical Communication Telescope Laboratory (OCTL) located near Wrightwood, CA. A large area (200 μm diameter) free space coupled avalanche photodiode (APD) detector was used to receive video and a bit patterns at 50 Mb/s. We report on a recent experiment that used an adaptive optics system at OCTL to correct for atmospherically-induced refractive index fluctuations so that the downlink from the ISS could be coupled into a single mode fiber receiver. Stable fiber coupled power was achieved over an entire pass using a self-referencing interferometer based adaptive optics system that was provided and operated by Boeing Co. and integrated to OCTL. End-to-end transmission and reconstruction of an HD video signal verified the communication performance as in the original OPALS demonstration. Coupling the signal into a single mode fiber opens the possibility for higher bandwidth and efficiency modulation schemes and serves as a pilot experiment for future implementations.
The Optical PAyload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) experiment was installed on the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2014. Developed as a technology demonstration, its objective was to experiment with space-to-ground optical communications transmissions from Low Earth Orbit. More than a dozen successful optical links were established between a Wrightwood, California–based ground telescope and the OPALS flight terminal from June 2014 to September 2014. Each transmission required precise bi-directional pointing to be maintained between the space-based transmitter and ground-based receiver. This was accomplished by acquiring and tracking a laser beacon signal transmitted from the ground telescope to the OPALS flight terminal on the ISS. OPALS demonstrated the ability to nominally acquire the beacon within three seconds at 25° elevation and maintain lock within 140 μrad (3σ) for the full 150-second transmission duration while slewing at rates up to 1°/sec. Additional acquisition attempts in low elevation and weather-challenged conditions provided valuable insight on the optical link robustness under off-nominal operational conditions.
The Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) Flight System on-board the International Space Station uses a charge coupled device (CCD) camera to detect a beacon laser from Earth. Relative measurements of the background contributed by upwelling radiance under diverse illumination conditions and varying surface terrain is presented. In some cases clouds in the field-of-view allowed a comparison of terrestrial and cloud-top upwelling radiance. In this paper we will report these measurements and examine the extent of agreement with atmospheric model predictions.
In mid-2014 several day and nighttime links under diverse atmospheric conditions were completed using the Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) flight system on-board the International Space Station (ISS). In this paper we compare measured optical power and its variance at either end of the link with predictions that include atmospheric propagation models. For the 976 nm laser beacon mean power transmitted from the ground to the ISS the predicted mean irradiance of tens of microwatts per square meter close to zenith and its decrease with range and increased air mass shows good agreement with predictions. The irradiance fluctuations sampled at 100 Hz also follow the expected increase in scintillation with air mass representative of atmospheric coherence lengths at zenith at 500 nm in the 3-8 cm range. The downlink predicted power of hundreds of nanowatts was also reconciled within the uncertainty of the atmospheric losses. Expected link performance with uncoded bit-error rates less than 1E-4 required for the Reed- Solomon code to correct errors for video, text and file transmissions was verified. The results of predicted and measured powers and fluctuations suggest the need for further study and refinement.