Abstract

We report experiments comparing different focal plane array (FPA) tracking algorithms for emulated laser communication links between an aircraft and spacecraft. The links include look-angle-dependent phase disturbances caused by boundary-layer turbulence replicated by using a deformable mirror. Impairments from platform jitter, atmospheric scintillation, and propagation delay are also included. We study a hyperhemispherical dome geometry that provides a large field of regard but generates boundary-layer turbulence. Results from experiments comparing peak and centroid FPA tracking algorithms in various environments show that power delivered to the optical fiber varies with algorithm and look angle. An improvement in steady-state fiber-coupled power of up to 1.0dB can be achieved through appropriate choice of algorithm. In a real system, this advantage could be realized by implementing a tracking processor that dynamically changes its tracking algorithm depending on look angle and other parameters correlated to boundary-layer turbulence.

© 2009 Optical Society of America

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