NASA has identified deep-space optical communications links as an integral part of a unified space communication network in order to provide data rates in excess of 100 Mb/s. The distances and limited power inherent in a deep-space optical downlink necessitate the use of photon-counting detectors and a powerefficient modulation such as pulse position modulation (PPM). For the output of each photodetector, whether from a separate telescope or a portion of the detection area, a communication receiver estimates a log-likelihood ratio for each PPM slot. To realize the full effective aperture of these receivers, their outputs must be combined prior to information decoding.

A channel combiner was developed to synchronize the log-likelihood ratio (LLR) sequences of multiple receivers, and then combines these into a single LLR sequence for information decoding. The channel combiner synchronizes the LLR sequences of up to three receivers and then combines these into a single LLR sequence for output. The channel combiner has three channel inputs, each of which takes as input a sequence of four-bit LLRs for each PPM slot in a codeword via a XAUI 10 Gb/s quad optical fiber interface. The crosscorrelation between the channels’ LLR time series are calculated and used to synchronize the sequences prior to combining. The output of the channel combiner is a sequence of four-bit LLRs for each PPM slot in a codeword via a XAUI 10 Gb/s quad optical fiber interface. The unit is controlled through a 1 Gb/s Ethernet UDP/IP interface.

A deep-space optical communication link has not yet been demonstrated. This ground-station channel combiner was developed to demonstrate this capability and is unique in its ability to process such a signal.

This work was done by Kevin J. Quirk, Jonathan W. Gin, Danh H. Nguyen, and Huy Nguyen of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-47733