Two-Way Laser Link over Interplanetary Distance

Science  06 Jan 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5757, pp. 53
DOI: 10.1126/science.1120091

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Here we report timed observations with subnanosecond precision of short laser pulses at a distance of nearly 24 million kilometers between the Mercury Laser Altimeter (MLA) aboard the MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft and the NASA Goddard Geophysical and Astronomical Observatory (GGAO). Forty MLA downlink observations and 90 uplink observations were obtained during observing sessions on 27 and 31 May 2005. Precise standard ground timing allowed a solution for spacecraft range, range rate, and acceleration, as well as clock bias. This experiment established a new distance record for laser detection and accomplished a two-way laser link at an interplanetary distance.

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