A Laser History of Lincoln Laboratory, Part 2

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Sixty years ago this month, Theodore H. Maiman, a physicist at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, Calif., constructed the first laser using a cylinder of synthetic ruby and photographic flash lamps. There have been many milestones in the last six decades. In honor of this breakthrough, Photonics Media will be running periodic coverage throughout the month.

LEXINGTON, Mass., May 6, 2020 — The MIT Lincoln Laboratory has been the site of numerous discoveries and has yielded some incredibly important technologies — many of them based on lasers.

The Firepond wideband laser radar (ladar) successfully collected the first range-Doppler images of an orbiting satellite in 1990. The experiment was part of the Firefly flight-test program designed to demonstrate the performance of the Firepond ladar, based on research into coherent laser radar at the laboratory.

In 1997, the laboratory developed the concept for a biological agent warning sensor, based on the principle of laser-induced fluorescence. The sensor is capable of discriminating suspicious particles from naturally occurring particles such as pollen and mold spores, and is designed to provide early warning of the presence of potential biological agents.

The laboratory began its Airborne Lidar Testbed (ALIRT) program in 2000 to demonstrate airborne 3D wide-area laser radar imaging and terrain mapping. Around the same time, the Jigsaw program developed high-resolution 3D imaging laser radar sensor technology and systems for use in airborne platforms to image and identify ground vehicles hiding under camouflage or foliage.

In 2007 the laboratory designed, built, and tested an enhanced track illuminator laser for the Airborne Laser program. The laser system required highly specific interface, environmental, and safety specifications.

October 2013 marked the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration, which used a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 239,000 miles from the moon to Earth at a record-breaking download speed of 622 megabits per second. It also achieved an uplink rate 5000 times that of radio technology.

Published: May 2020
LasersLincoln LaboratoryMassachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln LaboratoryMIT Lincoln LaboratoryResearch & TechnologyLaser 60th anniversaryHistory of the Laser

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