Abstract

The performance of two prominent laser beam projection system types is analyzed through wave-optics numerical simulations for various atmospheric turbulence conditions, propagation distances, and adaptive optics (AO) mitigation techniques. Comparisons are made between different configurations of both a conventional beam director (BD) using a monolithic-optics-based Cassegrain telescope and a fiber-array BD that uses an array of densely packed fiber collimators. The BD systems considered have equal input power and aperture diameters. The projected laser beam power inside the Airy size disk at the target plane is used as the performance metric. For the fiber-array system, both incoherent and coherent beam combining regimes are considered. We also present preliminary results of side-by-side atmospheric beam projection experiments over a 7-km propagation path using both the AO-enhanced beam projection system with a Cassegrain telescope and the coherent fiber-array BD composed of 21 densely packed fiber collimators. Both wave-optics numerical simulation and experimental results demonstrate that, for similar system architectures and turbulence conditions, coherent fiber-array systems are more efficient in mitigation of atmospheric turbulence effects and generation of a hit spot of the smallest possible size on a remotely located target.

© 2016 Optical Society of America

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