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Proceedings Paper

Large ultra-lightweight photonic muscle membrane mirror telescope
Author(s): Joseph M. Ritter; Andrea E. Baer; Thomas D. Ditto
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Paper Abstract

Photons weigh nothing. Why must even small space telescopes weigh tons? Primary mirrors require sub-wavelength figure (shape) error in order to achieve acceptable Strehl ratios. Traditional telescopy methods require rigid and therefore heavy mirrors and reaction structures as well as proportionally heavy and expensive spacecraft busses and launch vehicles. Our team's vision is to demonstrate the technology for making giant space telescopes with 1/2000 the areal density of the Hubble. Progress on a novel actuation approach is presented. The goal is to lay groundwork to achieve a 10 to 100 fold improvement in spatial resolution and a factor of 10 reduction in production and deployment cost of active optics. This entailed the synthesis and incorporation of photoactive isomers into crystals and polyimides to develop nanomachine laser controlled molecular actuators. A large photomechanical effect is obtained in polymers 10-50 μm thick. Laser-induced figure variations include the following: 1) reversible bi-directional bending; 2) large deformation range; 3) high speed deformation; and 4) control with a single laser (~0.1 W/cm2). Photolyzation data presented showing reversible semi-permanence of the photoisomerization indicates that a scanned 1 watt laser rather than a megawatt will suffice for large gossamer structure actuation. Areal density can be reduced by increasing actuation. Making every molecule of a substrate an actuator approaches the limit of the design trade space. Presented is a photomechanical system where nearly every molecule of a mirror substrate is itself an optically powered actuator. Why must even small space telescopes weigh tons? Data suggests they need not.

Paper Details

Date Published: 12 July 2008
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 7010, Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2008: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter, 70102K (12 July 2008); doi: 10.1117/12.790212
Show Author Affiliations
Joseph M. Ritter, Univ. of Hawaii, Institute for Astronomy (United States)
Andrea E. Baer, Univ. of Hawaii, Institute for Astronomy (United States)
Thomas D. Ditto, DeWitt Brothers Tool Co. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7010:
Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2008: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter
Jacobus M. Oschmann Jr.; Mattheus W. M. de Graauw; Howard A. MacEwen, Editor(s)

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