Abstract

The maximum measurement range of a laser altimeter can be extended by averaging the measurements from multiple laser shots at the same target. We present the principles of operation and design of such a multishot laser altimeter, which uses a Si avalanche photodiode detector. As an example, the performance of a spaceborne multishot altimeter containing components similar to those of the single-shot Mars Observer Laser Altimeter are given under operating conditions that would be encountered near Saturn. With 100-shot averages, we show that the multishot laser altimeter is capable of accurate ranging at fly-by distances of 10,000 km from an icy satellite. With 100-shot averages, the minimum optical signal level at a 90% correct-measurement probability under nighttime background is 9.8 detected signal photons per pulse as compared with 76 photons per pulse with a single shot.

© 1993 Optical Society of America

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