A novel type of optical phase locked loop (OPLL), optimized for homodyne inter-satellite communication, is presented. The loop employs a conventional 180° 3 dB optical hybrid and an AC-coupled balanced front end. No residual carrier transmission is required for phase locking. The loop accepts analog as well as digital data and various modulation formats. The only requirement to the transmitted user signal is a constant envelope. Phase error extraction occurs through applying a small sinusoidal local oscillator (LO) phase disturbance, while measuring its impact on the power of the baseband output signal. First experimental results indicate a receiver sensitivity of 36 photons/bit (-55.7 dBm) for a BER of 10-9, when transmitting a PRBS-31 signal at a data rate of 400 Mbit/s. The system setup employs diode-pumped Nd:YAG lasers at a wavelength of 1.06 µm.
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