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13 September 2012 RFA-based 589-nm guide star lasers for ESO VLT: a paradigm shift in performance, operational simplicity, reliability, and maintenance
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Large telescopes equipped with adaptive optics require 20-25W CW 589-nm sources with emission linewidths of ~5 MHz. These Guide Star (GS) lasers should also be highly reliable and simple to operate and maintain for many years at the top of a mountain facility. Under contract from ESO, industrial partners TOPTICA and MPBC are nearing completion of the development of GS lasers for the ESO VLT, with delivery of the first of four units scheduled for December 2012. We report on the design and performance of the fully-engineered Pre-Production Unit (PPU), including system reliability/availability analysis, the successfully-concluded qualification testing, long-term component and system level tests and long-term maintenance and support planning. The chosen approach is based on ESO's patented narrow-band Raman Fiber Amplifier (EFRA) technology. A master oscillator signal from a linearly-polarized TOPTICA 20-mW, 1178-nm CW diode laser, with stabilized emission frequency and controllable linewidth up to a few MHz, is amplified in an MPBC polarization-maintaining (PM) RFA pumped by a high-power 1120-nm PM fiber laser. With efficient stimulated Brillouin scattering suppression, an unprecedented 40W of narrow-band RFA output has been obtained. This is then mode-matched into a resonant-cavity doubler with a free-spectral-range matching the sodium D2a to D2b separation, allowing simultaneous generation of an additional frequency component (D2b line) to re-pump the sodium atom electronic population. With this technique, the return flux can be increased without having to resort to electro-optical modulators and without the risk of introducing optical wave front distortions. The demonstrated output powers with doubling efficiencies >80% at 589 nm easily exceed the 20W design goal and require less than 700 W of electrical power. In summary, the fiber-based guide star lasers provide excellent beam quality and are modular, turn-key, maintenance-free, reliable, efficient, and ruggedized devices whose compactness allows installation directly onto the launch telescope structure.
© (2012) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Axel Friedenauer, Vladimir Karpov, Daoping Wei, Manfred Hager, Bernhard Ernstberger, Wallace R. L. Clements, and Wilhelm G. Kaenders "RFA-based 589-nm guide star lasers for ESO VLT: a paradigm shift in performance, operational simplicity, reliability, and maintenance", Proc. SPIE 8447, Adaptive Optics Systems III, 84470F (13 September 2012);

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