Abstract

A precision laser tracker has been constructed and tested that is capable of tracking a low-acceleration target to an accuracy of about 25 μrad root mean square. In tracking high-acceleration targets, the error is directly proportional to the angular acceleration. For an angular acceleration of 0.6 rad/sec2, the measured tracking error was about 0.1 mrad. The basic components in this tracker, similar in configuration to a heliostat, are a laser and an image dissector, which are mounted on a stationary frame, and a servocontrolled tracking mirror. The daytime sensitivity of this system is approximately 3 × 10−14 W/m2; the ultimate nighttime sensitivity is approximately 3 × 10−14 W/m2. Experimental tests were performed to evaluate both dynamic characteristics of this system and the system sensitivity. Dynamic performance of the system was obtained, using a small rocket covered with retroreflective material launched at an acceleration of about 13 g at a point 204 m from the tracker. The daytime sensitivity of the system was checked, using an efficient retroreflector mounted on a light aircraft. This aircraft was tracked out to a maximum range of 15 km, which checked the daytime sensitivity of the system measured by other means. The system also has been used to track passively stars and the Echo I satellite. Also, the system tracked passively a +7.5 magnitude star, and the signal-to-noise ratio in this experiment indicates that it should be possible to track a +12.5 magnitude star.

© 1966 Optical Society of America

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