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Single spatial mode, double-heterostructure, channel-substrate-planar AlGaAs laser diodes have been life tested under thermally accelerated conditions to characterize the reliability of the diodes in a digital, optical communication system intended for space application. The diodes were operated pulsed under constant drive current conditions at 50 mW peak power, 25 ns pulse width, and 1 percent duty cycle in a dry, inert environment at ambient test temperatures at 40,55, and 70°C. Diode performance parameters as related to the space application, such as pulsewidth, peak power, wavelength spectrum, spatial mode, and threshold current, were periodically monitored. Tests have continued for over 14 000 h. The test results for all diodes with failure defined by power degradation alone is compared to the test results for single mode diodes with failure defined by power degradation, wavelength shift and spatial mode changes. It is found that the life test results are substantially equivalent but differ from earlier published reports for laser diodes operated CW. An activation energy of about 0.39 eV is deduced with a predicted median life of about h at 20 °C. These values are somewhat lower than those found for diodes operated CW and are attributed to the use of single mode laser diodes here. It is concluded that thermally accelerated life testing for single spatial mode laser diodes must incorporate a means to separate bulk material, current, and optical density induced degradation effects. A test scheme is proposed.