MSFC Optic's Group has continued to be an integral partner to GSFC on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The contract for building the Webb telescope was awarded to TRW in 2002. MSFC personnel have led the mirror technology development effort via the AMSD and NMSD contracts.
They have prepared and validated XRCF infrastructure and procedures for testing AMSD and eventually the JWST primary mirror segments and also been designated the JWST optical components lead responsible for insight/oversight on the JWST primary, secondary and tertiary mirror fabrication and test. Optics at Marshall was instrumental in evaluating the design and studying the optical technology feasible for this observatory.
EUSO will examine the interaction between the Earth’s atmosphere and Extremely Energetic Cosmic Rays. The optical system will use curved double-sided fresnel lenses, each 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) in diameter. The optical fabrication group has made and measured the large lenses as test articles for a development study. EUSO will be attached as an external payload on the International Space Station.
SXI systems and componets are tested in the X-ray Calibration Facility (XRCF), the same facility that tested the Chandra X-ray telescope at MSFC. SXI satellites obtain a continuous sequence of corona X-ray images from the Sun to monitor solar activity for its effects on the Earth's upper atmosphere. The test chamber offers the unique capability for simulating a space environment with low temperature and pressure.
Constellation-X, now known as IKO is a collection of several orbiting x-ray telescopes coordinated to observe with the same power as a larger observatory. New types of mirror production are needed for this telescope. Metal x-ray mirrors replicated from a mandrel are much lighter and cheaper than glass, like the mirrors in the Chandra Observatory, so they are desirable for space applications. Marshall Space Flight Center is advancing replicated optics technology.
The Cross-Enterprise Technology Development Program (CETDP) is NASA's primary vehicle for undertaking basic research within the agency to enable planned missions, stimulate new concepts for missions not yet conceived, and to confront directly the grand challenges that face the agency in the next five to ten years.
The CETDP program supports the long range strategic technology goals of the offices of space science, human exploration and development of space, earth science and the office of the nasa chief technologist.
MSFC's Optics at Marshall participates in the CETDP through the development of innovative technologies aimed at ensuring the success of future space optics-related programs. Examples of new technologies currently under development include:
The University of Alabama in Huntsville participates with MSFC in this effort to develop fresnel lens optics for space-based applications ranging from an ultra-violet cosmic ray imaging detector to collectors for space-based solar power. Efforts include designs and prototype developments of monolithic lenses up to 1.25 meters in diameter and segmented lenses up to 2 meters in diameter.
With the assistance of SRS technologies of Huntsville, AL, mirrors made from ultrathin clear polyimide membranes are being developed and tested. These membranes are shown to possess thickness variations of less than an optical wavelength. Flat and curved membranes are being tested for surface roughness, uniform thickness, and figure control.
This effort, performed in cooperation with GSFC, JPL, and the U.S. Army, aims to design, fabricate and test high efficiency diffraction gratings that will enable higher sensitivity, lower volume, and simpler spectroscopy instruments for earth and space science. Both transmissive and reflective gratings are being developed in this program using a combination of recently developed diffractive and lithographic technologies. Products from this effort include grisms (diffractive gratings etched onto a prism-like structure) in MgF2 and LiF for high efficiency, low dispersion far ultraviolet imaging spectroscopy, grisms tailored for broadband Earth science remote sensing spectrographs, grisms in IR materials such as Si or Ge for IR spectroscopy, and concave echelles for high spectral resolving power ultraviolet spectroscopy of Earth's atmosphere and astronomical objects.
This activity develops materials and manufacturing processes for replicating lightweight grazing incidence x-ray mirrors. X-ray telescope configurations use many nested mirror shells to provide a large collection area for x-ray collection and imaging. New approaches to developing x-ray mirror shells include investigating plasma-spraying of aluminum-silicon alloy and developing new shell materials and coatings based in nickel alloys. This effort recently produced shells of 0.5 m in diameter with areal densities of 1.2 kg/m2. The x-ray mirror development effort receives co-funding from GSFC in support of the Constellation X Mission.
This research is a joint effort between NASA MSFC, the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson AFB, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville to develop customized multilayered stacks of dielectric materials to be employed as resonant transmissive optical phase modulators. These arrays of modulators provide a nonmechanical approach to directional free-space transmission of broadband optical signals when arranged in tightly packed arrays. Applications range from multi-body free-flying constellation missions requiring accurate ranging/positioning data links to adaptive optical systems for large aperture telescopes and space-based lidar.
The goal of this effort is to develop a nonmechanical, solid state zoom lens with applications in space imaging systems, optical beam steering, and wavefront modulation using a zoned plate of lead lanthanum-modified zirconate titanate (PLZT). This research is a joint effort between MSFC researchers and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). The first tests of this device are aimed at demonstrating a variable-focusing capability in response to configurable voltage as applied to the test device's zoned regions.
ZrF4-BaF2-LaF3-AlF3-NaF (ZBLAN) is an infrared transmitting glass which can be made into optical fibers. ZBLAN has a theoretical attenuation coefficient of 0.002 dB/km which is 2 orders of magnitude better than fused silica. However, due to impurities and crystallites formed upon processing, ZBLAN subsequently has attenuation coefficients greater than 1 dB/km. Dr. Dennis Tucker along with researchers at MSFC and UAH has been studying the effects of gravity on the crystallization of ZBLAN. It has been found that processing ZBLAN in microgravity suppresses the crystallization and improves the transmission. Studies are ongoing to determine the crystallization mechanism on KC-135 flights.
High Energy Replicated Optics (HERO)
Power Beaming Demonstration