Level crossing statistics is applied to the complex problem of atmospheric turbulence-induced beam wander for laser propagation from ground to space. A comprehensive estimate of the single-axis wander angle temporal autocorrelation function and the corresponding power spectrum is used to develop, for the first time to our knowledge, analytic expressions for the mean angular level crossing rate and the mean duration of such crossings. These results are based on an extension and generalization of a previous seminal analysis of the beam wander variance by Klyatskin and Kon. In the geometrical optics limit, we obtain an expression for the beam wander variance that is valid for both an arbitrarily shaped initial beam profile and transmitting aperture. It is shown that beam wander can disrupt bidirectional ground-to-space laser communication systems whose small apertures do not require adaptive optics to deliver uniform beams at their intended target receivers in space. The magnitude and rate of beam wander is estimated for turbulence profiles enveloping some practical laser communication deployment options and suggesting what level of beam wander effects must be mitigated to demonstrate effective bidirectional laser communication systems.
© 2011 Optical Society of America
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