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Opt Express. 2001 Nov 19;9(11):592-602.

Mutual alignment errors due to the variation of wave-front aberrations in a free-space laser communication link.


Optical devices in free-space laser communication systems are affected by their environment, particularly in relation to the effects of temperature while in orbit. The mutual alignment error between the transmitted and received optical axes is caused by deformation of the optics due to temperature variation in spite of the common optics used for transmission and reception of the optical beams. When a Gaussian beam wave for transmission is aligned at the center of a received plane wave, 3rd-order Coma aberrations have the most influence on the mutual alignment error, which is an inevitable open pointing error under only the Tip/Tilt tracking control. As an example, a mutual alignment error of less than 0.2 microrad is predicted for a laser communication terminal in orbit using the results from space chamber thermal vacuum tests. The relative power penalty due to aberration is estimated to be about 0.4 dB. The results will mitigate surface quality in an optical antenna and contribute to the design of free-space laser communication systems.

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