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31 October 2000 Progress toward large-aperture membrane mirrors
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The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is exploring the feasibility of large-aperture, deployable, space-based membrane telescopes operating in the visible and/or near- infrared spectral regions. One of the near-term goals of this work is to develop an understanding of available and achievable membrane materials, specifically concentrating on practical techniques to form large aperture membranes with the necessary surface quality and economy. When this research began a little more than three years ago, the conceptual design was based upon a totally inflatable structure. An inflatable structure has been used for space solar power collection and radio frequency antennas. This totally inflatable lenticular design is simple and relatively easy to demonstrate, but maintaining inflation during an extended lifetime in near-earth orbit may not be feasible. Recently, a new concept for a membrane telescope has emerged which does not depend on sustained inflation during operation. Thin membranes on the order of 10 to 100 micrometer thick will be packaged and deployed, maintaining their surface figure by means other than inflation. Given the fact that the sub- wavelength level surface tolerances required of imaging telescopes will probably not be practical with a membrane- based telescope, such systems will probably rely on real-time holography or some other wavefront correction or compensation technique. We will discuss the primary experimental work ongoing in the AFRL Membrane Mirror Laboratory, and in doing so, some of the issues relevant to demonstrating a practical, large-aperture membrane mirror system.
© (2000) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
James R. Rotge, Shiv C. Dass, Dan K. Marker, Richard A. Carreras, Brian J. Lutz, and Dennis C. Duneman "Progress toward large-aperture membrane mirrors", Proc. SPIE 4091, Imaging Technology and Telescopes, (31 October 2000);

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