A pulsed fiber laser Northrop Grumman Corporation is developing for future space-based environmental missions has surpassed power output requirements by producing more than 170 watts of average power with nearly perfect beam quality.
This type of fiber laser has the advantages of high efficiency and compact size, and is scalable and adaptable for a variety of space missions, including spaced-based 3-D imaging, altimetry and optical remote sensing using Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology, according to Robert Burke, vice president for civil and military systems at Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector.
“This is a significant milestone in preparing fiber laser devices for space LIDAR systems,” Burke said. “The compactness and high efficiency of this technology positions us well in our efforts to offer our customers space-qualified laser products that enable more cost-effective LIDAR systems.”
The company’s ALTAIR IV fiber laser operated at a multi-kilohertz, pulse repetition frequency rate with less than 2.0 nanosecond pulses in recent laboratory tests, according to Stephen Palese, technical lead.
“Our fiber laser approach for ALTAIR IV allows for significantly improved efficiency that is five to 10 times better than previous-generation diode-pumped, bulk solid-state lasers,” Palese said.
“This will enable substantially smaller size and mass compared with existing pulsed lasers, reducing spacecraft resource requirements and resulting in lower system costs.”
The company has been developing critical fiber laser technologies that can be scaled to support various civil space missions since 2005.
In 2008, it produced 79W from a single fiber in a proof-of-concept demonstration for laser radar applications.
The following year, it successfully tested a twin-fiber breadboard that addressed multi-fiber packaging while operating at 50 kHz pulse repetition rate. These developments enabled this most current packaged fiber laser demonstration.