The design of any optical system operating in the atmosphere requires previous investigations of atmospheric turbulence conditions at the system's location. In addition, if outdoor optical measurements are to be useful in assessing the performance of the optical system, or in checking propagation theory, they must be supported by simultaneous direct measurements of the atmospheric turbulence. Stellar observations provide a useful and convenient means for these purposes in the case of ground-satellite optical communications. We first review the refractive index structure parameter profiling techniques based on stellar observations. For implementation we have selected the technique based on spatiotemporal analysis of captured speckle patterns. There is ample evidence that turbulence in the free atmosphere confined to thin, horizontal layers separated by nonturbulent regions. The lifetime of such layers are of the order of several hours. The technique allows us to detect these layers, giving simultaneously the altitude, horizontal mean wind velocity and integrated refractive index value for each 1 km interval. We briefly describe the experimental setup and the measurement technique. We then present some sample results. Initial results show that the current state of the experimental setup and the processing algorithm can detect only the most prominent layers, and altitude accuracy is less than expected. We are currently looking for ways to improve the technique to allow detection of more layers.© (1999) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.