Measuring global winds from space using eye-safe coherent laser radar is an important on-going NASA technology and instrument development effort that will ultimately improve the fidelity of meteorological climate models, near-term weather forecasting, and commercial aviation management and optimization. Activities like NASA LaRC’s “Wind-SP” coherent lidar program are pushing these laser and lidar technologies forward with regard to high-energy eye-safe transmitter lasers, low-noise fast-tunable master and local oscillator lasers, improved lidar photoreceivers, and active optical alignment and lag-angle compensation functionalities specific to space-based applications. Specifically in this proposal, Beyond Photonics plans to develop a compact next-generation Power Amplifier/Transceiver Module for current and future NASA missions focused on lidar systems in the short-wave infrared wavelength region near two microns. We will emphasize the design and development of very compact and alignment-insensitive Ho:YLF/LuLF amplifiers operating near 2.05 µm, monolithically integrated with very compact lidar transmit/receive optics and photonics, and capitalize optimally on very efficient hybrid fiber/bulk-crystal MOPA designs. Efficient, compact approaches using optimally-configured Tm:fiber-based front end transmitters and preamplifiers followed by dual-pass Tm bulk crystal amplification will be a focus to reach flexible performance on the order of 40 mJ/pulse, 400 Hz PRF, and high beam quality, which can serve as an effective transmitter for many upcoming NASA remote-sensing applications. Operationally flexible, low-SWaP path-to-space approaches will be emphasized. These innovations will apply directly to current NASA missions and instruments (Doppler wind lidar, IPDA, LAS) and accelerate commercial development and availability of practical ground-based and airborne systems (e.g. compact airborne CO2 concentration-measuring instruments) at BP and elsewhere.
Potential NASA applications of the proposed hybrid fiber/bulk power amplifier/lidar transceiver technology include on-going and future measurement of global winds from space; ground-based and airborne coherent lidar programs; eye-safe remote laser spectroscopy applications for measurement of atmospheric constituents like CO2, water vapor, and methane; tracking of fast-moving space debris and asteroid hazards; spacecraft docking applications; and other shortwave-IR wavelength instrument developments in the 1.5-to-2.0 micron wavelength region.
Non-NASA commercial uses of fiber/bulk MOPA transmitters include DoD hard target and space debris tracking/imaging problems & research/industrial applications requiring very compact efficient front-end transmitter lasers and bulk amplifiers at eye-safe SWIR wavelengths. Commercial development is planned for compact, high-FOM remote-sensing products for winds and other remote sensing applications.