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Large Aperture "Photon Bucket" Optical Receiver Performance in High Background EnvironmentsThe potential development of large aperture groundbased "photon bucket" optical receivers for deep space communications, with acceptable performance even when pointing close to the sun, is receiving considerable attention. Sunlight scattered by the atmosphere becomes significant at micron wavelengths when pointing to a few degrees from the sun, even with the narrowest bandwidth optical filters. In addition, high quality optical apertures in the 10-30 meter range are costly and difficult to build with accurate surfaces to ensure narrow fields-of-view (FOV). One approach currently under consideration is to polish the aluminum reflector panels of large 34-meter microwave antennas to high reflectance, and accept the relatively large FOV generated by state-of-the-art polished aluminum panels with rms surface accuracies on the order of a few microns, corresponding to several-hundred micro-radian FOV, hence generating centimeter-diameter focused spots at the Cassegrain focus of 34-meter antennas. Assuming pulse-position modulation (PPM) and Poisson-distributed photon-counting detection, a "polished panel" photon-bucket receiver with large FOV will collect hundreds of background photons per PPM slot, along with comparable signal photons due to its large aperture. It is demonstrated that communications performance in terms of PPM symbol-error probability in high-background high-signal environments depends more strongly on signal than on background photons, implying that large increases in background energy can be compensated by a disproportionally small increase in signal energy. This surprising result suggests that large optical apertures with relatively poor surface quality may nevertheless provide acceptable performance for deep-space optical communications, potentially enabling the construction of cost-effective hybrid RF/optical receivers in the future.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
External Source(s)
Vilnrotter, Victor A.
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Hoppe, D.
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 25, 2013
Publication Date
March 7, 2011
Subject Category
Meeting Information
IEEE Aerospace Conferenece(Big Sky, MT)
Distribution Limits
photon bucket detection
optical communication
strong background
receiver optimization

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