Laser Radar to Image GEO Sats


Raytheon is to demonstrate that a ground-based laser can image geostationary satellites under a five-year, $11 million contract from the US Air Force Research Laboratory.

The company will develop a long-range imaging laser-radar (LRIL) transceiver to demonstrate inverse synthetic-aperture ladar (ISAL) imaging of an object in geosynchronous orbit (GEO).

Conventional imaging systems require large apertures (10m or more) to resolve objects in GEO. Synthetic-aperture systems use the relative movement between the object and observer to synthesize a larger aperture, allowing smaller optics to be used.

ISAL illuminates the target with a laser and uses small movements of the object to form high-resolution images using small telescopes with meter-class apertures. The challenge is in actively illuminating an object in GEO and coherently detecting the laser retruns.

The LRIL program has four phases. Phase 1 is producing ISAL imagery in the laboratory at the Maui Space Surveillance System (MSSS) on Hawaii. Phase 2 is low-power imaging of an object in medium earth ordit (or GEO). Phase 3 adds adaptive optics to compensate for atmospheric distortion.

In Phase 4, a high-power laser illuminator will be installed at the MSSS and ISAL images "will be collected from non-optically-augmented geosynchronous objects," the contract announcement says.

Sited atop the 10,000ft Mount Haleakala on Maui, the MSSS is home to the Advanced Electro-Optical System (AEOS), a 3.6m telescope - the biggest in the DoD - that is used to track and image objects in closer orbits for space situational awareness.

blog post photo
AEOS (Photo: US Air Force)

Please or Register to post comments.

What's Ares?

Aviation Week editors blog their personal views on the defense industry.

Blog Archive
We use cookies to improve your website experience. To learn about our use of cookies and how you can manage your cookie settings, please see our Cookie Policy. By continuing to use the website, you consent to our use of cookies.