The Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous Laser Altimeter
Source: Space Science Reviews, Volume 82, Numbers 1-2, October 1997 , pp. 217-253(37)
Abstract:In 1999 after a 3-year transit, the Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft will enter a low-altitude orbit around the asteroid, 433 Eros. Onboard the spacecraft, five facility instruments will operate continuously during the planned one-year orbit at Eros. One of these instruments, the NEAR Laser Rangefinder (NLR), will provide sufficiently high resolution and accurate topographical profiles that when combined with gravity estimates will result with quantitative insight into the internal structure, rotational dynamics, and evolution of Eros. Developed at the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), the NLR instrument is a direct-detection laser radar using a bistatic arrangement. The transmitter is a gallium arsenide (GaAs) diode-pumped Cr:Nd:YAG (1.064-µm) laser and the separate receiver uses an extended infrared performance avalanche-photodiode (APD) detector with 7.62-cm clear aperture Dall–Kirkham telescope. The lithium-niobate (LiNbO3) Q-switched transmitter emits 15-ns pulses at 15.3 mJ pulse^-1, permitting reliable NLR operation beyond the required 50-km altitude. With orbital velocity of 5 m s^-1 and a sampling rate of 1 Hz, the NLR spot size provides high spatial sampling of Eros along the orbital direction. Cross-track sampling, determined by the specific orbital geometry with Eros, defines the resolution of the global topographic model; this spacing is expected to be <500 m on the asteroid's surface. Combining the various sources of range errors results with an overall range accuracy of 6 m with respect to Eros' center-of-mass. The NLR instrument design, perfomance, and validation testing is decribed. In addition, data derived from the NLR are discussed. Using altimetry data from the NLR, we expect to estimate the volume of 433 Eros to 0.01%and its mass to 0.0001% accuracies; significantly greater accuracies than ever possible before NEAR.
Document Type: Regular Paper
Affiliations: 1: Space Department, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory Laurel, MD 20723–6099, U.S.A. 2: Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, 54-518 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, U.S.A. 3: Laboratory for Terrestrial Physics, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, U.S.A.
Publication date: October 1, 1997