Additive manufacturing (AM; 3D printing) is a fabrication process that builds an object layer-upon-layer and promotes the use of structures that would not be possible via subtractive machining. Prototype AM metal mirrors are increasingly being studied in order to exploit the advantage of the broad AM design-space to develop intricate lightweight structures that are more optimised for function than traditional open-back mirror lightweighting.
This paper describes a UK Space Agency funded project to design and manufacture a series of lightweighted AM mirrors to fit within a 3U CubeSat chassis. Six AM mirrors of identical design will be presented: two in aluminium (AlSi10Mg), two in nickel phosphorous (NiP) coated AlSi10Mg, and two in titanium (Ti64). For each material mirror pair, one is hand-polished and the other is diamond turned. Metrology data, surface form error and surface roughness, will be presented to compare and contrast the different materials and post-processing methods. To assess the presence of porosity, a frequent concern for AM materials, X-ray computed tomography measurements will be presented to highlight the location and density of pores within the mirror substrates; methods to mitigate the distribution of pores near the optical surface will be described. As a metric for success the AlSi10Mg + NiP and AlSi10Mg mirrors should be suitable for visible and infrared applications respectively.
Design for additive manufacture (AM; 3D printing) is significantly different than design for subtractive machining. Although there are some limitations on the designs that can be printed, the increase in the AM design-space removes some of the existing challenges faced by the traditional lightweight mirror designs; for example, sandwich mirrors are just as easy to fabricate as open-back mirrors via AM, and they provide an improvement in structural rigidity. However, the ability to print a sandwich mirror as a single component does come with extra considerations; such as orientation upon the build plate and access to remove any temporary support material. This paper describes the iterations in optimisation applied to the lightweighting of a small, 84mm diameter by 20mm height, spherical concave mirror intended for CubeSat applications. The initial design, which was fabricated, is discussed in terms of the internal lightweighting design and the design constraints that were imposed by printing and post-processing. Iterations on the initial design are presented; these include the use of topology optimisation to minimise the total internal strain energy during mirror polishing and the use of lattices combined with thickness variation i.e. having a thicker lattice in strategic support locations. To assess the suitability of each design, finite element analysis is presented to quantify the print-through of the lightweighting upon the optical surface for a given mass reduction.
Precision-aligned, robust, ultra-stable optical assemblies are required in an increasing number of space-based applications such as fundamental science, metrology and geodesy. Hydroxide catalysis bonding is a proven, glue-free, technology for building such optical systems from materials such as ULE, Zerodur and fused silica. Hydroxide catalysis bonded optical systems have flown in missions such as GP-B and LISA Pathfinder achieving picometer path-length stability and microradian component stability over full mission lifetime. Component alignment and bonding was previously a largely manual process that required skilled operators and significant time. We have recently automated most of the alignment and bonding steps with the goals of improving overall precision, speed and reliability. Positioning and bonding of an optical component to within 4 microns and 10 microradians of a target position and alignment can now be reliably completed within half an hour, compared to the many hours typically taken previously. The key new features of this system are an interferometer that monitors the parallelism and separation of the surfaces to be bonded and a precision multi-axis manipulator that can optimise component alignment as it brings it down to the point of bonding. We present a description of the system and a summary of the alignment results obtained in a series of 9 test bonds. We also show how this system is being developed for integration into a precision optical manufacturing facility for assembly of large optical systems
ERIS is an instrument that will both extend and enhance the fundamental diffraction limited imaging and spectroscopy capability for the VLT. It will replace two instruments that are now being maintained beyond their operational lifetimes, combine their functionality on a single focus, provide a new wavefront sensing module that makes use of the facility Adaptive Optics System, and considerably improve their performance. The instrument will be competitive with respect to JWST in several regimes, and has outstanding potential for studies of the Galactic Center, exoplanets, and high redshift galaxies. ERIS had its final design review in 2017, and is expected to be on sky in 2020. This contribution describes the instrument concept, outlines its expected performance, and highlights where it will most excel.
This paper investigates the potential role of small satellites, specifically those often referred to as CubeSats, in the future of infrared astronomy. Whilst CubeSats are seen as excellent (and inexpensive) ways to demonstrate and improve the readiness of critical (space) technologies of the future they also potentially have a role in solving key astrophysical problems. The pros and cons of such small platforms are considered and evaluated with emphasis on the technological limitations and how these might be improved. Three case studies are presented for applications in the IR region. One of the main challenges of operating in the IR is that the detector invariably needs to be cooled. This is a significant undertaking requiring additional platform volume and power and is one of the major areas of discussion in this paper. Whilst the small aperture on a CubeSat inevitably has limitations both in terms of sensitivity and angular resolution when compared to large ground-based and space-borne telescopes, the prospect of having distributed arrays of tens (perhaps hundreds) of IR-optimised CubeSats in the future offers enormous potential. Finally, we summarise the key technology developments needed to realise the case study missions in the form of a roadmap.
We present the design and measured performance of the Aperture Wheel and the Pupil and Filter Wheel mechanisms for the NIX camera of the VLT/ERIS instrument. Both mechanisms were developed for high opto-mechanical precision and stability while operating at 70 K. We summarise the design constraints and considerations. Further, we have developed a dedicated cryo-test facility to allow measuring the position repeatability under nominal operational conditions. We demonstrate that the wheel mechanisms perform as designed and provide the measurement methodology and results of the opto-mechanical tolerances.
ERIS will be the next-generation AO facility on the VLT, combining the heritage of NACO imaging, with the spectroscopic capabilities of an upgraded SINFONI. Here we report on the all-new NIX imager that will deliver diffraction-limited imaging from the J to M band. The instrument will be equipped with both Apodizing Phase Plates and Sparse Aperture Masks to provide high-angular resolution imagery, especially suited for exoplanet imaging and characterization. This paper provides detail on the instrument’s design and how it is suited to address a broad range of science cases, from detailed studies of the galactic centre at the highest resolutions, to studying detailed resolved stellar populations.
The tropospheric distribution of greenhouse gases (GHGs) depends on surface flux variations, atmospheric chemistry and transport processes over a range of spatial and temporal scales. Accurate and precise atmospheric concentration observations of GHGs can be used to infer surface flux estimates, though their interpretation relies on unbiased atmospheric transport models. GHOST is a novel, compact shortwave infrared spectrometer which will observe tropospheric columns of CO2, CO, CH4 and H2O (along with the HDO/H2O ratio) during deployment on board the NASA Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle. The primary science objectives of GHOST are to: 1) test atmospheric transport models; 2) evaluate satellite observations of GHG column observations over oceans; and 3) complement in-situ tropopause transition layer observations from other Global Hawk instruments. GHOST comprises a target acquisition module (TAM), a fibre slicer and feed system, and a multiple order spectrograph. The TAM is programmed to direct solar radiation reflected by the ocean surface into a fibre optic bundle. Incoming light is then split into four spectral bands, selected to optimise remote observations of GHGs. The design uses a single grating and detector for all four spectral bands. We summarise the GHOST concept and its objectives, and describe the instrument design and proposed deployment aboard the Global Hawk platform.
The Universe is comprised of hundreds of billions of galaxies, each populated by hundreds of billions of stars. Astrophysics aims to understand the complexity of this almost incommensurable number of stars, stellar clusters and galaxies, including their spatial distribution, formation, and current interactions with the interstellar and intergalactic media. A considerable fraction of astrophysical discoveries require large statistical samples, which can only be addressed with multi-object spectrographs (MOS). Here we introduce the MOSAIC study of an optical/near-infrared MOS for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), which has capabilities specified by science cases ranging from stellar physics and exoplanet studies to galaxy evolution and cosmology. Recent studies of critical technical issues such as sky-background subtraction and multi-object adaptive optics (MOAO) have demonstrated that such a MOS is feasible with current technology and techniques. In the 2020s the E-ELT will become the world’s largest optical/IR telescope, and we argue that it has to be equipped as soon as possible with a MOS. MOSAIC will provide a vast discovery space, enabled by a multiplex of ∼ 200 and spectral resolving powers of R = 5 000 and 20 000. MOSAIC will also offer the unique capability of 10-to-20 ‘high-definition’ (MOAO) integral-field units, optimised to investigate the physics of the sources of reionisation, providing the most efficient follow-up of observations with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The combination of these modes will enable the study of the mass-assembly history of galaxies over cosmic time, including high-redshift dwarf galaxies and studies of the distribution of the intergalactic medium. It will also provide spectroscopy of resolved stars in external galaxies at unprecedented distances, from the outskirts of the Local Group for main-sequence stars, to a significant volume of the local Universe, including nearby galaxy clusters, for luminous red supergiants.