Abstract

Satellite laser ranging operating at 1064 nm wavelength using superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors (SNSPDs) is successfully demonstrated. A SNSPD with an intrinsic quantum efficiency of 80% and a dark count rate of 100 cps at 1064 nm wavelength is developed and introduced to Yunnan Observatory in China. With improved closed-loop telescope systems (field of view of about 26), satellites including Cryosat, Ajisai, and Glonass with ranges of 1600 km, 3100 km, and 19,500 km, respectively, are experimentally ranged with mean echo rates of 1200/min, 4200/min, and 320/min, respectively. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of laser ranging for satellites using SNSPDs at 1064 nm wavelength. Theoretical analysis of the detection efficiency and the mean echo rate for typical satellites indicate that it is possible for a SNSPD to range satellites from low Earth orbit to geostationary Earth orbit.

© 2016 Optical Society of America

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