Satellite-Satellite Laser Links for Future Gravity Missions
Abstract. A strong candidate for use in future missions to map time variations in the Earth’s gravity field is laser heterodyne measurements between separate spacecraft. At the shortest wavelengths that can be measured in space, the main accuracy limitation for variations in the potential with latitude is expected to be the frequency stability of the laser. Thus the development of simple and reliable space-qualified lasers with high frequency stability appears to be an important goal for the near future.
In the last few years, quite high stability has been achieved by locking the second harmonic of a Nd:YAG laser to a resonant absorption line of iodine molecules in an absorption cell. Such a laser system can be made quite robust, and temperature related frequency shifts can be controlled at a low value. Recent results from laboratory systems are described. The Allan standard deviation for the beat between two such lasers was 2 × 10−14 at 10 s, and reached 7 × 10−15 at 600 s.
KeywordsIodine Molecule Spacecraft Separation Fractional Fluctuation Laser Frequency Noise High Frequency Stability
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