Boston Micromachines, a provider of MEMS-based deformable mirror products for adaptive optics systems, is developing a deformable mirror that will aid NASA in the search for extra-solar planets. The mirror comprises a micromirror array consisting of 331 closely packed ultra-flat hexagonal mirror elements. Each element is capable of tip, tilt, and piston motion with nanometer precision as required for a space-based, hyper-contrast coronagraph imaging telescope.
The mirror will become an enabling component for the visible nulling coronagraph instruments planed for NASA’s Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) mission, which aims to study all aspects of planets outside of our solar system. The mirror will also have an application for the proposed Extrasolar Planet Imaging Coronagraph (EPIC) Discovery mission. The technology developed in this program also will allow the future development of deformable mirrors for non-NASA applications. Ultra-flat, highly reflective mirror surfaces are required for a variety of commercial applications such as high-energy laser correction and optical lithography.