Abstract

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On mission will use a phase-locked loop to track changes in the phase of an optical signal that has been transmitted hundreds of kilometers between two spacecraft. Beam diffraction significantly reduces the received signal power, making it difficult to track, as the phase-locked loop is more susceptible to cycle slips. The lowest reported weak-light phase locking is at 40 fW with a cycle slip rate of 1 cycle per second. By selecting a phase-locked loop bandwidth that minimized the signal variance due to shot noise and laser phase fluctuations, a 30 fW signal has been tracked with a cycle slip rate less than 0.01 cycles per second. This is tracking at a power 25% lower with a 100-fold improvement in the cycle slip rate. This capability will enable a new class of missions, opening up new opportunities for space-based interferometry.

© 2014 Optical Society of America

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