Low-cost direct detect spaceborne LIDAR
DeMello, John E.
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LIDAR has widely been used to create very accurate 3-D models for use in a wide range of commercial, governmental and nonprofit applications. This thesis identifies how recent advancements in Nd:YAG fiber lasers and InGaAs GmAPDs could be applied to space-borne missions, enabling low-cost solutions that fulfill NASA’s ICESat-2 and United States Geological Survey (USGS) objectives. An analysis of launch vehicles, standard spacecraft buses and payload technologies identified three potential low-cost solutions: one hosted aboard Iridium and two onboard a BCP2000 commercial bus. These systems were evaluated using NASA’s mass-based and aperture-based cost models to provide a rough estimate of cost versus NASA’s CALIPSO, ICESat-1 and ICESat-2 missions. Preliminary analysis shows a potential for these new technologies to outperform any previous space-based LIDAR mission. At $55M, the Iridium-hosted solution is 1/16th the cost of ICESat-2 at roughly one-third its capability. Two other solutions were estimated at $216.6M and $370.586M and provided over 3X and 10X the estimated capability of ICESat-2, respectively. Both systems are anticipated to fulfill NASA’s ice sheet and vegetation objectives while delivering a return on investment of roughly $1B per year based on USGS’s analysis of advanced 3-D data for the United States.
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