A new differential technique for forming optical images using a synthetic aperture is introduced. This differential technique utilizes a single aperture to obtain unique (N) phases that can be processed to produce a synthetic aperture image at points along a trajectory. This is accomplished by dividing the aperture into two equal "subapertures", each having a width that is less than the actual aperture, along the direction of flight. As the platform flies along a given trajectory, a source illuminates objects and the two subapertures are configured to collect return signals. The techniques of the invention is designed to cancel common-mode errors, trajectory deviations from a straight line, and laser phase noise to provide the set of resultant (N) phases that can produce an image having a spatial resolution corresponding to a synthetic aperture.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.