Philosophical Society of Washington

Satellite Laser Ranging: A Joint Agency Effort for Precise Satellite Positioning

G. Charmaine Gilbreath
Electro-Optics Center Naval Research Laboratory

2062nd Meeting Abstract
Friday, October 04, 1996 at 8:15 PM


Satellite Laser Ranging is the accepted method of establishing “truth” for precise positioning of satellites. The orbits of geodetic satellites such as LAGEOS, for example, have been estimated to within centimeters. Precision in positioning of satellites can be used for any number of scientific and engineering applications. These include measurement of the motion of the tectonic plates, measurement of the displacement of the surface of the ocean to within 10 cm, and precise orbital determination for navigation. This lecture will provide an overview of the technique and will review the state-of-the-art capability recently developed under the leadership of the Naval Research Laboratory at the USAF Phillips Laboratory's Starfire Optical Range. Notable in the design is the integration of a 300 millijoule laser with the 3.5 meter telescope at SOR. Returns have been obtained routinely from the NAVSTAR GPS satellites at 14,000 km as well as from low flying satellites at 400 to 600 km.

About the Author:

G. Charmaine Gilbreath has been with the Naval Research Laboratory since 1980. She has conducted integration testing for intersatellite laser communications and served as principal investigator of a program in photorefractive research for adaptive optical wavefront control. Since 1992, she has been head of the electro-optics technology section. Her team has established a world-class satellite laser ranging capability in a joint effort between NRL, the USAF Phillips Lab, and NASA. They have re-established retro-array design within the government laboratory structure and have designed retro arrays for a number of DOD spacecraft. Recently, she has become involved in the NASA Origins program in its efforts to detect earth-like planets using space-based telescopes and interferometers. Ms. Gilbreath has a B.S. in physics from the Georgia Institute of Technology, a M.S.E. and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from The Johns Hopkins University.

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