Assembly Machines Produce Optics for NASA’s NuSTAR Telescope

Cylindrical optics module assembly machines
Swanzey, NH

ABTech has completed the first of two cylindrical optics module assembly machines for Columbia University’s Nevis Astrophysics Laboratory. The multi-axis air bearing machine platforms are optimized for the construction of high-energy xray telescopes. The optics modules will be used to produce the telescope optics for NASA’s NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) program. ABTech will provide installation and on-sight operational training to Columbia University scientists at the Nevis Laboratory and ongoing technical support during the production of the optics modules.

The NuSTAR assembly machine features a three-axis lathe for diamond turning and a secondary high-speed air-bearing spindle for precision grinding of graphite mounting surfaces for sensitive optical mirror sections. Multiple functions including optics module assembly, machining, and inspection can be performed without requiring the operator to remove the module between each process. A linear stacked stage precisely positions the diamond tool and grinding spindle in relation to the lathe axis. The linear slide had to be straight and flat to less than 40 millionths of an inch over a distance of 600 mm.

NuSTAR is a partnership of research facilities in the world led by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It is a pathfinder mission that will open the high-energy X-ray sky for sensitive study.

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