The art of flight quality solid-state laser development is still relatively young, and much is still unknown regarding the
best procedures, components, and packaging required for achieving the maximum possible lifetime and reliability when
deployed in the harsh space environment. One of the most important issues is the limited and unstable supply of quality,
high power diode arrays with significant technological heritage and market lifetime. Since Spectra Diode Labs
Inc. ended their involvement in the pulsed array business in the late 1990's, there has been a flurry of activity from other
manufacturers, but little effort focused on flight quality production. This forces NASA, inevitably, to examine the use of
commercial parts to enable space flight laser designs.
System-level issues such as power cycling, operational derating, duty cycle, and contamination risks to other laser
components are some of the more significant unknown, if unquantifiable, parameters that directly effect transmitter
reliability. Designs and processes can be formulated for the system and the components (including thorough modeling)
to mitigate risk based on the known failures modes as well as lessons learned that GSFC has collected over the past ten
years of space flight operation of lasers.
In addition, knowledge of the potential failure modes related to the system and the components themselves can allow the
qualification testing to be done in an efficient yet, effective manner. Careful test plan development coupled with physics
of failure knowledge will enable cost effect qualification of commercial technology. Presented here will be lessons
learned from space flight experience, brief synopsis of known potential failure modes, mitigation techniques, and options
for testing from the system level to the component level.