HartSCI Wins Contract to Advance Guide Star Laser Technology

HartSCI, in partnership with the University of New Mexico, has been awarded a $1.25M contract, FA9451-24-C-X003, from the Air Force Research Laboratory to advance novel technology in the lasers used to make guide beacons for adaptive optics (AO). Advanced laser-guided AO instrumentation is essential to maintaining Space Domain Awareness for national security because of the detailed information it provides about orbiting satellites.

The best guide beacons are made with a laser operating at a very specific frequency designed to stimulate a high-altitude layer of sodium atoms in the atmosphere. The sodium is deposited there by infalling meteors as they burn up. It’s very tenuous though, so to make the beacon as bright as possible we have to work all the tricks in the physics book to strengthen the interaction between the laser light and the sodium atoms.

The program builds on advanced technology developed by UNM: the Membrane External-Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (MECSEL). By modulating the laser frequency just slightly but very rapidly according to an exact prescription, the team expects to demonstrate a significant enhancement in beacon brightness for a given projected laser power. As an added bonus, the new MECSEL technology promises to deliver that power at a lower cost than present commercially available lasers.

According to HartSCI VP Stephen Warner, “HartSCI is honored to have been selected once again to put innovative technology into service. We’re proud to contribute to our national security posture while at the same time reducing costs to the taxpayer.”

To learn more about HartSCI’s products in adaptive optics and high-resolution imaging technologies, contact us through our website.