Wave front sensor alignment and calibration techniques for laser communication systems

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Laser communication systems operate in the presence of strong atmospheric turbulence, affecting communication platform by broadening of the laser footprint, random jitter of the laser beam, and high spatial frequency intensity fluctuations referred to as scintillation. The prediction of the effects induced by the atmospheric turbulence is a crucial task for reliable data transmission. Equipping the lasercom platform with adaptive optics system capable of probing the atmospheric turbulence and generating the data on wave front errors in real time improves performance and extends the range of optical communications systems. Most adaptive optics systems implement wavefront sensors to measure the errors induced by the atmospheric turbulence. Real time analysis of the data received from the wavefront sensor is used for outgoing laser beam compensation significantly improves the lasercom performance. To obtain reliable data, the wavefront sensor needs to be accurately aligned and calibrated. To model the performance of a laser communication system operating in the real world we have developed an outdoor 3.2 km, partially over water, turbulence measurement and monitoring communication link. The developed techniques of wavefront sensor alignment and calibration led to the successful data collection and analysis are discussed in this paper. © 2012 SPIE.

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Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering