Free-Space Laser Communication

Prerequisites: Familiarity with or exposure to Matlab programming, physics (electricity & magnetism), electronics, and optics would be very helpful.

Load: 11 A.M. - 4 P.M. on Jan. 10, 12, 17, 19 (Four 5-hour sessions over 2 weeks, includes break for lunch)

Time Outside Class: Approx. 3 hours per week

Free-space laser communication (lasercom) is poised to revolutionize space-based data transmission, by enabling links with higher data rates and longer ranges than are practically achievable with radio-frequency systems. MIT Lincoln Laboratory and NASA recently demonstrated a record-breaking high-data-rate lasercom link, from a spacecraft orbiting the moon to ground stations on Earth, in the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD).

Although we won’t be sending laser beams into space, this class will provide students with hands-on experience designing and building a basic lasercom system. The accompanying lectures will provide an overview of lasercom concepts, lasers and optical components, lasercom-relevant electronics, communication link design, and analog and digital modulation techniques. Students will learn to apply these principles by building their own free-space lasercom systems, and will work in teams to compete for a best-project award.   

*This work is sponsored by the Department of the Air Force under Air Force Contract #FA8721-05-C-0002. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions and recommendations are those of the authors and are not necessarily endorsed by the United States Government.