HiTAP will enable deep-space optical communications. NASA's Space Communications and Navigation program office identified optical communications as an important technology for NASA missions, enabling enhanced volume and quality of data to be returned from the farthest reaches of space in preparation for future human deep-space exploration missions. Although several missions have validated optical communications from low-Earth and geostationary orbit, the unique challenges of deep-space optical links still require separate risk-retiring technology demonstrations before implementing inner-orbit communication. Many other NASA applications benefit from the innovation, such as reading out individual pixels of APD arrays, including single-photon avalanche-photodiode detectors and sensor signal-processing nodes. This makes it useful to NASA in systems for applications like LADAR autonomous navigation, docking and landing, space-based laser altimetry for studying the surface height of Earth and other planets from orbit, LIDAR instruments for atmospheric sciences, large-scale surveying / surveillance, bathymetry, and forestry.
This innovation satisfies the general need for multichannel data processors supporting wideband (GBPS‐class) free-space optical-link FPAs and instruments requiring high-throughput time-of-flight instruments. The proposed innovation also has applications in these fields: free-space optical communications; 3D time-of-flight LADAR and LIDAR mapping systems; positron-emission tomography (PET) imaging in nuclear medicine; single-photon-emission computed tomography (SPECT) imaging in nuclear medicine; time-correlated single-photon-counting and fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy in life sciences; collision avoidance, imaging, and adaptive cruise control in automotive applications; and data centers for high-throughput real-time data transfer and processing.