A document discusses a component of a laser metrology system designed to measure displacements along the line of sight with precision on the order of a tenth the diameter of an atom. This component, the phasemeter, measures the relative phase of two electrical signals and transfers that information to a computer.

Because the metrology system measures the differences between two optical paths, the phasemeter has two inputs, called measure and reference. The reference signal is nominally a perfect square wave with a 50- percent duty cycle (though only rising edges are used). As the metrology system detects motion, the difference between the reference and measure signal phases is proportional to the displacement of the motion. The phasemeter, therefore, counts the elapsed time between rising edges in the two signals, and converts the time into an estimate of phase delay.

The hardware consists of a circuit board that plugs into a COTS (commercial, off-the-shelf) Spartan-III FPGA (field-programmable gate array) evaluation board. It has two BNC inputs, (reference and measure), a CMOS logic chip to buffer the inputs, and an Ethernet jack for transmitting reduceddata to a PC. Two extra BNC connectors can be attached for future expandability, such as external synchronization. Each phasemeter handles one metrology channel. A bank of six phasemeters (and two zero-crossing detector cards) with an Ethernet switch can monitor the rigid body motion of an object.

This device is smaller and cheaper than existing zero-crossing phasemeters. Also, because it uses Ethernet for communication with a computer, instead of a VME bridge, it is much easier to use. The phasemeter is a key part of the Precision Deployable Apertures and Structures strategic R&D effort to design large, deployable, segmented space telescopes.

This work was done by Shanti Rao of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-45504

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
FPGA-Based Networked Phasemeter for a Heterodyne Interferometer

(reference NPO-45504) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the May, 2009 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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