Optical characterization of laser retroreflector arrays for lunar landers

Cremons, D. R., X. Sun, Z. Denny, S. W. Wake, E. D. Hoffman, E. Mazarico, E. C. Aaron, and D. E. Smith (2020), Optical characterization of laser retroreflector arrays for lunar landers, Appl. Opt., 59, 5020-5031, doi:10.1364/AO.388371.

The Laser Retroreflector Array for Lunar Landers (LRALL) is a small optical instrument designed to provide a target for precision laser ranging from a spacecraft in lunar orbit, enabling geolocation of the lander and its instrument suite and establishing a fiducial maker on the lunar surface. Here we describe the optical performance of LRALL at visible and near-infrared wavelengths. Individual corner cube reflectors (CCRs) within LRALL were tested for surface flatness and dihedral angle values. We also imaged the far-field diffraction patterns of individual CCRs as well as the entire retroreflector array over the range of possible incident angles to extract the optical cross section as a function of viewing angle. We also measured the optical properties of one of the CCRs over the lunar temperature range (100–380 K) and found no significant temperature-dependent variance. The test results show LRALL meets the design criteria and can be ranged to elevation angles above 30◦ with respect to the instrument base from an orbital laser altimeter such as the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. This work summarizes the test data and serves as a guide for future laser ranging to these retroreflector arrays.

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Earth Surface & Interior Program (ESI)
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)