Optically-pumped semiconductor laser for sodium laser guide star adaptive optics applications in astronomy and space debris tracking/de-orbiting

Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics (LGS AO) is a technique used to restore space-like imaging conditions for ground-based optical systems by correcting atmospheric turbulence disturbances in real-time. The Adaptive Optics group at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) is involved in LGS AO research for astronomy (e.g. Laser Tomography AO for the Giant Magellan Telescope), and satellite/space debris tracking/de-orbiting within the Space Environment Research Centre based at the Mount Stromlo Observatory.

Sodium LGS AO uses 10 to 50W-class lasers tuned to the sodium D2 line at 589nm to excite mesospheric sodium atoms located about 90 to 100km above the ground to create an artificial guide star. The Semiconductor Laser project aims to develop and prototype such a laser source for use in astronomy and space debris laser tracking/deorbiting applications. The laser system will be based on Optically-Pumped Semiconductor Laser (OPSL) technology to be developed in collaboration with an international partner in the United States.

It is expected that the project should start in 2016 and run for a duration of 3-5 years, with plans to install and test the Semiconductor Laser prototype at the EOS laser tracking station on Mount Stromlo (for space debris tracking/de-orbiting applications). Further testing may be considered at an international astronomical telescope facility depending on available funding and telescope access at that time. Depending on the duration and level of involvement with the project, Australian National University students may be involved in any or all aspects of the laser research and development (in the United States and Australia) in a diverse engineering team. Prior experience in laser physics and/or engineering is required.