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Proceedings Paper

Large Aperture High Accuracy Satellite Laser Tracking
Author(s): Jan L. F. McGarry; Thomas W. Zagwodzki; John J. Degnan
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Paper Abstract

An advanced experimental satellite laser ranging station has been established at the Goddard Space Flight Center's 48-Inch Telescope Facility located in Beltsville, Maryland. The goal is to develop a laser ranging system capable of ranging to both low and high earth orbiting satellites with a few millimeters accuracy. To accomplish this goal requires precise pointing of the massive (15 ton) azimuth-elevation mounted Coude telescope since the spread of the laser beam is typically 12 arcseconds. Because tracking is performed under open loop computer control with no feedback from the laser returns (except via operator corrections), the initial acquisition data and the algorithms for computation of the orbit must be accurate enough to maintain the satellite within the narrow laser beam width. The system is currently being used to track the LAGEOS and STARLETTE satellites. In actual operation the pointing is accurate enough so that minimal operator intervention is required to acquire the satellite and maintain the track. This system has performed extremely well in terms of both data quantity and quality. On a clear night the return to fire ratio is typically 80 percent or better throughout a large portion of the pass, with single pulse laser output energies of less than 100 millijoules, and the shot to shot range RMS for most passes is near the one centimeter level.

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 February 1987
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 0641, Acquisition, Tracking, and Pointing, (1 February 1987); doi: 10.1117/12.964425
Show Author Affiliations
Jan L. F. McGarry, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (United States)
Thomas W. Zagwodzki, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (United States)
John J. Degnan, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 0641:
Acquisition, Tracking, and Pointing
Richard R. Auelmann; Herbert L. Richard, Editor(s)

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