The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans to develop optical communication terminals for future spacecraft, especially in support of high data rate science missions and manned exploration of Mars. Future, very long-range missions, such as the Realistic Interstellar Explorer (RISE)1, will need optical downlink communications to enable even very low data rates. For all of these applications, very fine pointing and tracking is also required, with accuracies on the order of ? 1 ?rad or less and peak-to-peak ranges of ? 10 mrad or more. For these applications, it will also be necessary to implement very compact, lightweight and low-power precision beam-steering technologies. Although current commercial-off-the-shelf devices, such as macro-scale piezo-driven tip/tilt actuators exist, which approach mission requirements, they are too large, heavy, and power consuming for projected spacecraft mass and power budgets. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) has adopted a different approach to beam-steering in collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). We are testing and planning to eventually package a highly accurate large dynamic range meso-scale position transducer under development at NIST. In this paper we will describe a generic package design of an optical communications terminal incorporating the NIST prototype beam-steerer. We will also show test results comparing the performance of the NIST prototype meso-scale position beam-steerer to a commercial macro-tip/tilt actuator using a quad-cell tracking sensor.
Proceedings Title: Proceedings of SPIE Vol. 5160
Conference Dates: August 4-6, 2003
Conference Location: San Diego, CA
Conference Title: SPIE Vol. 5160
Pub Type: Conferences
beam-steering, Control, Micro/Nano Systems, optical communications, position transducer, quadrant photodetector, tip/tilt