Estimates of the scintillation index, fractional fade time, expected number of fades, and mean duration of fade time associated with a propagating Gaussian-beam wave are developed for uplink and downlink laser satellite-communication channels. Estimates for the spot size of the beam at the satellite or the ground or airborne receiver are also provided. Weak-fluctuation theory based on the log-normal model is applicable for intensity fluctuations near the optical axis of the beam provided that the zenith angle is not too large, generally not exceeding 60°. However, there is an increase in scintillations that occurs with increasing pointing error at any zenith angle, particularly for uplink channels. Large off-axis scintillations are of particular significance because they imply that small pointing errors can cause serious degradation in the communication-channel reliability. Off-axis scintillations increase more rapidly for larger-diameter beams and, in some cases, can lead to a radial saturation effect for pointing errors less than 1 μrad off the optical beam axis.
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ErrataLarry C. Andrews, Ronald L. Phillips, and Peter T. Yu, "Optical scintillations and fade statistics for a satellite-communication system: errata," Appl. Opt. 36, 6068-6069 (1997)