An ATP System for Deep-Space Optical Communication
- Created: Wednesday, 01 October 2008
An acquisition, tracking, and pointing (ATP) system is proposed for aiming an optical- communications downlink laser beam from deep space. In providing for a direction reference, the concept exploits the mature technology of star trackers to eliminate the need for a costly and potentially hazardous laser beacon. The system would include one optical and two inertial sensors, each contributing primarily to a different portion of the frequency spectrum of the pointing signal: a star tracker (<10 Hz), a gyroscope (<50 Hz), and a precise fluid-rotor inertial angular-displacement sensor (sometimes called, simply, “angle sensor”) for the frequency range >50 Hz. The outputs of these sensors would be combined in an iterative averaging process to obtain high- bandwidth, high-accuracy pointing knowledge. The accuracy of pointing knowledge obtainable by use of the system was estimated on the basis of an 8-cm-diameter telescope and known parameters of commercially available star trackers and inertial sensors: The single-axis pointing-knowledge error was found to be characterized by a standard deviation of 150 nanoradians — below the maximum value (between 200 and 300 nanoradians) likely to be tolerable in deep-space optical communications.