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.