For deep space optical communications at astronomical distances such as Mars and beyond, a multi-kW average power laser that can be coded to send data is needed. Optical communication will revolutionize space-based science and exploration capabilities by supplying data rates up to 100 times faster than the currently used radio frequency based systems. New science will be enabled as missions become capable of hosting instruments that require substantial bandwidth, such as hyperspectral imagers and instruments with high definition in spectral, spatial, or temporal modes. The key to efficient optical communication encompasses the ability to generate the optical power efficiently, aim the narrow beam accurately enough to illuminate a receiver on Earth, and to collect and detect the received optical signal with minimal loss after passing through the atmosphere. A fundamental concept of operation is that the deep space transceiver uses an uplink beacon from Earth as a reference for pointing the downlink. This is done to minimize the mass and power of the subsystem on the spacecraft that accurately points the downlink laser beam.
In response to NASA’s solicitation to develop a multi-kW laser to use as a ground beacon and uplink laser transmitter, PSI is proposing to develop a simple and innovative fiber design that can produce > 3 kW of average power and 6 kW of peak power at 50% duty cycle. The laser will be modulated with user interface to encode data. In the phase I PSI will design a special fiber laser amplifier for efficient, compact and low cost communication system. The laser will be modulated using pulse position modulation technique to encode data.
The proposed technology is applicable to NASA for communicating between satellites, space crafts or to the ground. The LCRD mission will demonstrate the first two-way rely optical communication. Future Psyche mission, which is a journey to Psyche-16 between Mars and Jupiter, will test this new technology that encodes data in photons to communicate between a probe in deep space and Earth. In this mission, deep-space optical communications technology using lasers will demonstrate link length extending from 0.1 to farther than 2 AU.
Non NASA applications are in cutting, drilling, machining, Lidar, and elemental analysis using LIBS. Our low Size Weight and Power laser with narrow-linewidth is suitable for coherent beam combination to generate 100s kW average power for directed energy weapons. When operated to generate very short pulses, the laser can be in the scientific laboratories to interrogate high energy physics.