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12 October 1996 Kilometric baseline space interferometry
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Two versions of a kilometric interferometer with equivalent science capabilities have been studied, one located on the Moon and the other operating as a free-flyer. It has been found that the Moon is not the ideal site for interferometry because of tidal and micro-meteorite induced disturbances, the need for long delay lines and the large temperature swings from day to night. Automatic deployment of the Moon- based interferometer would be difficult and site preparation and assistance by man appear to be essential. The free-flyer would be implemented as a very accurately controlled cluster of independent satellites placed in a halo orbit around the 2nd Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system. Both versions could attain the required scientific performances and each one needs the same type of metrology control. The free-flyer is intrinsically advantageous because of its reconfiguration flexibility, quasi-unlimited baseline length and observation efficiency (the Moon-based interferometer cannot be operated during the lunar day because of stray light). The free-flyer is better suited for implementation in the near or mid-term future, but the Moon-based version could be considered in the long term when a human presence would permit maintenance and upgrading leading to a longer lifetime with continuous performance enhancement.
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