Russian Scientists Developed a High-Precision Laser for Satellite Navigation

Scientists from ITMO University’s Research Institute of Laser Physics have developed a special high power laser with short pulse duration for precise measurement of the distance between the Moon and the Earth. This laser will use in a lunar laser locator. Satellite coordinates must be as accurate as possible to ensure precise object location. The locator would make it possible to correct calculations of celestial coordinates of the Moon in order to improve the accuracy of satellite navigation systems. Nowadays this high power laser is the most powerful pulse-periodic picosecond laser in the world.

This ITMO’s laser locator determines the distance from the Earth to corner reflectors on the lunar surface. The accuracy of a laser locator depends on the duration of its laser pulse and resolution of the receiver. The shorter the impulse, the higher is the accuracy.

The locator’s specifics of design include a special combination of laser parameters such as a short pulse duration and high pulse repetition rate. This high pulse energy laser itself consists of a low-power generator, a regenerative preamplifier, and an output amplifier. Its special laser system compensates for the thermal aberrations arising inactive laser elements which operate at a high pulse repetition rate. The laser pulse duration is 64 ps, which is almost 16 billion times less than one second. The output pulse energy accounts to 250 mJ at the “green” wavelength and 430 mJ at the “infrared” wavelength. The pulse repetition rate is 200 Hz.

This exceptional laser system can be used not only for increasing the accuracy of navigation systems. In addition to this, it can be used for the removal of space debris. This system will be capable of identifying objects in orbit and, if necessary, pushing them away using radiation pressure.

The Russian researchers envision that the new laser will be used in a laser locator of the GLONASS navigation system, making it possible to correct satellite coordinates calculating in real time. Thus this would make the Russian system more accurate than US GRS counterpart, with a margin of error reduced to just 10 cm.

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