Date of Award

Fall 2010

Project Type


Program or Major

Electrical Engineering

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Marc Lessard


The results of an exploration regarding the novel use of free-space optics (FSO) between sounding rockets and their sub-payloads are presented. This includes an evaluation of optoelectronic and optical devices against environmental and system level criteria. A preliminary test using available in-house components and bench-top equipment was also performed to determine potential distances and data rates of FSO in this environment. Using a light emitting diode with an optical power output of approximately six milliwatts, and a photomultiplier tube originally purposed for use on the Compton GRO, a pulse rate of ten kilohertz was transmitted over a distance of four-hundred meters in-atmosphere. Transmission distance was increased to five-hundred meters using an optical bandpass filter, and nine-hundred meters using a baffle. Because of test equipment limitations and the potential for increased optical power transmission, it is expected that greater distances and data rates can be achieved in the final design.