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National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Small Business Innovation Research 1997 Program Solicitatio


TOPIC 15 Space-Based Large Telescopes

15.01 Large Aperture Space Telescope Technologies

Innovative products are sought that enable or enhance technologies critical to achievement of large-aperture, high-performance optical space telescopes at greatly reduced cost, weight, and packaging volume. This topic benefits the development of the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), a key element of NASA's Origins Program. The NGST is a six to eight-meter aperture telescope that is to be launched in 2006 - 2007. The telescope will be designed to have near-diffraction limited performance in the range of wavelengths between 500 and 5000 nanometers and to operate at 30 K. The mass of the optical system is expected to be less than 1000 kilograms.

15.01 Large Aperture Space Telescope Technologies

Lead Center: MSFC

The NGST, the Hubble Space Telescope Replacement, will be made much more powerful in resolution and light-gathering ability by greatly increasing the aperture size. It also will be necessary to operate the telescope at cryogenic temperatures and at a substantial distance from the Earth. Therefore, low mass of critical components such as the primary mirror and support and/or deployment structure is extremely important. It is also essential to develop actuators, deformable mirrors and other components for operation in a cryogenic environment. In order to meet the stringent optical alignment and tolerances necessary for a high quality telescope and to provide a robust design, there are potential significant benefits possible from employing systems that can adaptively correct for image degrading sources from inside and outside the spacecraft. This subtopic also includes correction systems for large aperture space telescopes that require control across the entire wavefront, typically at low bandwidth. The following technologies are sought:

  • New lightweight mirror concepts development.
  • New materials that reduce mass and improve performance.
  • High precision fabrication methods and equipment to produce the highest quality optical surfaces.
  • Metrology during fabrication to monitor, control, and verify results of the process.
  • Technologies for testing new mirror materials and shapes in relevant environments.
  • Segmented and membrane mirrors technology development.
  • New coatings and methods for applying them.
  • Lightweight structural concepts that enable packaging the large aperture into the relatively small launch vehicle payload envelope.
  • Deployable optical benches to achieve reference baseline dimensions greater than those of the payload envelope.
  • Innovative, precision, lightweight deployable mechanisms for segmented and thin membrane primary mirrors operating in a cryogenic environment.
  • High resolution (2 nm) long stroke (6mm) cryogenic actuators.
  • Powerful new analytical models, simulations, and evaluation techniques and new integrations of suites of existing software tools allowing a broader and more in-depth evaluation of design alternatives and identification of optimum system parameters.
  • Active and adaptive mirror systems that compensate for sources of distortion (structural deformations arising from misalignments, thermally driven dimensional changes and dynamics from overall vehicle motions, and moving mechanical systems on-board the spacecraft) to the image produced in the telescope.
  • Innovative methods of detecting and characterizing errors.
  • New control algorithms and methodologies for turning error information into corrective commands.
  • Precision actuation to accomplish corrective measures.
  • Embedded microelectronics to reduce the size and mass of an adaptive control system.
  • Image stabilization technologies enhancements.
  • Measures that reduce the effects of the dynamics from internal mechanisms.
  • Innovative solutions for momentum exchange systems.
  • Momentum management systems that are not life-limited by consumables.
  • Momentum management, pointing and attitude control, and on-orbit metrology systems that are integral with the adaptive and active correction system to achieve high optical performance, robust adaptability, reliability, and long life.


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