Partially Transparent Circular Mask to Suppress Narrowband Laser Light

The evolved Laser Interferometry Space Antenna (eLISA) is the implementation of the original Laser Interferometry Space Antenna (LISA) concept that will be proposed for the European Space Agency's (ESA) L.3 Cosmic Visions opportunity. The eLISA observatory uses lasers to range between pairs of freely falling test masses in adjacent, widely separated spacecraft. The measurement is made continuously, requiring simultaneous transmission and reception of a 1064-nm laser beam through an optical telescope.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Measurements, Antennas, Lasers, Antennas, Lasers, Spacecraft

Miniature Camera Mimics Eagle's Eye

A tiny, 3D-printed “eagle-eye” camera developed at the University of Stuttgart in Germany mimics the vision of some of nature's sharpest predators. The “foveated” imaging system, named after the fovea part of the eye, provides a high central acuity that could support new applications in optical sensors, endoscopy, and surveillance drones.

Posted in: Application Briefs, Cameras, Imaging, Photonics, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Imaging, Imaging and visualization, Biomechanics

Characterizing Richness of Previously Unmapped Terrain and Estimating Its Impact on Navigation Performance Using 3D Range Sensors in Flight

Landers to large planetary bodies such as Mars typically use a secondary reconnaissance spacecraft to generate high-fidelity 3D terrain maps that are subsequently used for landing site selection and creating onboard maps for terrain-relative navigation systems. This luxury does not exist with small primitive bodies such as comets and asteroids. For these bodies, the landing spacecraft has to perform the 3D mapping and, with possible help from ground control, choose a feasible landing site. To enable this operation, the spacecraft would need to carry a 3D ranging sensor system such as a LIDAR. With the spacecraft placed in extended mapping orbits, 3D range measurement data is then used to create a shape model of the object. Terrain-based navigation schemes that employ cameras could then be used to image, detect, match, and track features against the map database to provide a 6-degrees-of-freedom (DOF) navigation solution during descent. Camera-based systems, however, are not robust to lighting variations, and do not provide a direct 3D position/range feedback.

Posted in: Briefs, Photonics, Cartography, Cartography, Terrain, Entry, descent, and landing, Spacecraft

NASA Tests Lasers’ Ability to Transmit Data from Space

The standard way for spacecraft to communicate with teams on the ground has been to use radio waves. NASA, however, will test the use of lasers to increase data communication rates by as much as 100 times. In a Technology Leaders Q&A, JPL physicist Bill Klipstein explains his role as project manager of NASA's Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) mission.

Posted in: Articles, Photonics, Lasers, Wireless communication systems, Lasers, Wireless communication systems, Spacecraft

New Products: May 2017 Photonics & Imaging Technology

1x4 Pulsed Laser Diode Array

Excelitas Technologies® Corp. (Waltham, MA) has introduced a 1x4 Pulsed Laser Diode Array for LiDAR applications. The new laser array combines Excelitas’ high-efficiency, multi-cavity laser chip technology with small form-factor surface mount device (SMD) packaging for applications requiring high reliability, such as autonomous vehicles and drones.

Posted in: Products, Imaging, Photonics

What’s New on Asteroid Detection, Blood-Pressure Monitoring, and Breaking the ‘Bandwidth Bottleneck’

Did you know that a 1-kilometer-wide asteroid flew past the Earth this month? Or that a chip-scale device provides broader bandwidth instantaneously to more users? Or that a new "Bold Band" offers a wearable way to monitor blood pressure? Make sure you've seen the latest stories on

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Imaging, Patient Monitoring, Photonics

Fabrication of Freeform Optics

Freeform surfaces on optical components have become an important design tool for optical designers. Non-rotationally symmetric optical surfaces have made solving complex optical problems easier. The manufacturing and testing of these surfaces has been the technical hurdle in freeform optic’s wide-spread use. Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) optics manufacturing technology has made the fabrication of optical components more deterministic and streamlined for traditional optics and aspheres. Optimax has developed a robust freeform optical fabrication CNC process that includes generation, high speed VIBE polishing, sub-aperture figure correction, surface smoothing and testing of freeform surfaces. Metrology of freeform surface is currently achieved with coordinate measurement machines (CMM) for lower resolution and interferometry with computer generated holograms (CGH) for high resolution irregularity measurements.

Posted in: White Papers, Imaging, Optics, Photonics, Test & Measurement

Will UAVs improve how we monitor the environment?

This week's Question: Last week's story from the SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing 2017 conference in Anaheim revealed new ways of detecting leaks in natural gas pipelines. Panelists from industry, academia, and government demonstrated how miniaturized sensing platforms, and the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) hosting them, can improve the detection of hazardous gas leakage. What do you think? Will UAVs improve how we monitor the environment?

Posted in: Question of the Week, Aerospace, Aviation, Fiber Optics, Lasers & Laser Systems, Optical Components, Optics, Photonics, Data Acquisition, Sensors

Q&A: Photonics Breakthrough 'Tunes' Wireless Communications

A chip-scale optical device, developed by a team from the University of Sydney’s Australian Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, achieves radio frequency signal control at sub-nanosecond time scales. The photonics breakthrough has the potential to provide broader bandwidth instantaneously to more users.

Posted in: News, Communications, Optical Components, Optics, Photonics

Researchers Sculpt Optical Micro-Structures

Materials scientists at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering used a new framework to grow sophisticated optical micro-components, including trumpet-shaped assemblages that operate as waveguides.

Posted in: News, Manufacturing & Prototyping, Optical Components, Optics

The U.S. Government does not endorse any commercial product, process, or activity identified on this web site.