- Materials Science; Physics and Astronomy
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Space laser altimeter is an active remote sensing instrument to measure topographic map of Earth, Moon and planetary. The space laser altimeter determines the range between the instrument and laser footprint by measuring round trip time of laser pulse. The return pulse reflected from ground surface is gathered by the receiver of space laser altimeter, the pulsewidth and amplitude of which are changeable with the variability of the ground relief. Meantime, several kinds of noise overlapped on the return pulse signal affect its signal-to-noise ratio. To eliminate the influence of these factors that cause range walk and range uncertainty, the reliable laser ranging methods need to be implemented to obtain high-precision range results. Based on typical space laser altimeters in the past few decades, various ranging methods are expounded in detail according to the operational principle of instruments and timing method. By illustrating the concrete procedure of determining time of flight of laser pulse, this overview provides the comparison of the employed technologies in previous and undergoing research programs and prospect innovative technology for space laser altimeters in future.