Satellite-based laser technology has been developed for topographical measurements of the Earth and of other planets. Lasers for such missions must be highly efficient and stable over long periods in the temperature variations of orbit. In this innovation, LabVIEW is used on an Apple Macintosh to acquire and analyze images of the laser beam as it exits the laser cavity to evaluate the laser’s performance over time, and to monitor and control the environmental conditions under which the laser is tested. One computer attached to multiple cameras and instruments running LabVIEW-based software replaces a conglomeration of computers and software packages, saving hours in maintenance and data analysis, and making very longterm tests possible.

This all-in-one system was written primarily using LabVIEW for Mac OS X, which allows the combining of data from multiple RS-232, USB, and Ethernet instruments for comprehensive laser analysis and control. The system acquires data from CCDs (charge coupled devices), power meters, thermistors, and oscilloscopes over a controllable period of time. This data is saved to an html file that can be accessed later from a variety of data analysis programs. Also, through the LabVIEW interface, engineers can easily control laser input parameters such as current, pulse width, chiller temperature, and repetition rates. All of these parameters can be adapted and cycled over a period of time.

This work was done by Paul Stysley and Barry Coyle of Goddard Space Flight Center, and Eric Lyness of Mink Hollow Systems, Inc. GSC-16298-1

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Integrated Laser Characterization, Data Acquisition, and Command and Control Test System (reference GSC-16298-1) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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