Erbium-doped fiber lasers (EDFLs) may soon find applications in space as high bit rate optical communication systems and photonic analog-to-digital converters (ADCs). The rapid advancement in digital signal processing systems has led to an increased interest in the direct digitization of high- frequency analog signals. The potential high bandwidth, reduced weight, and reduced power requirements makes photonics an attractive technology for wide-band signal conversion as well as for use in space-based platforms. It is anticipated that photonic ADCs will be able to operate at sampling rates and resolutions far greater than current electronic ADCs. The high repetition rates and narrow pulse widths produced by EDFLs allow for high-speed impulse sampling of analog signals thus making it a vital component of a photonic ADC. In this paper we report on the in situ gamma-ray irradiation of an actively mode-locked EDFL operating at 1530 nm. The onset, growth and extent of ionization induced damage under time-resolved operational conditions is presented. The laser consisted of approximately 3 meters of erbium-doped fiber pumped by a laser diode operating at 980 nm. The picosecond pulses produced by the laser were initiated and controlled by a Mach-Zehnder lithium niobate electro-optic modulator. The active mode-locking element allowed for the precise timing control of the laser repetition rate which is critical in high-speed optical networking systems as well as in photonic ADCs.© (2002) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.