A document describes a sunshade assembly for the spaceborne telescope of the Terrestrial Planet Finder Coronagraph mission. During operation, the telescope is aimed at target stars in the semi-hemisphere away from the Earth's Sun. The observatory rotates about its pointing axis during a single star observation, resulting in relative movement of the Sun. The sunshade assembly protects the telescope against excessive solar-induced thermal distortions for times long enough to complete observations.

The assembly includes a cylindrical baffle immediately surrounding the telescope, and a series of coaxial conical shields at half-cone angle increments of between 3º and 6º. The black inner surface of the cylindrical baffle suppresses stray light. The outer surface of the cylindrical baffle and all the surfaces of the conical shields except the outermost one are specular and highly reflective in the infrared. The outer surface of the outer shield is a material with low solar absorptance and high infrared emittance, such as silverized Teflon or white paint. This arrangement strongly radiatively couples each shield layer more effectively to cold space than to adjacent shield layers. The result is that the solar-driven temperature gradients in the cylindrical baffle are nearly negated, and only weakly communicated to the highly-infrared-reflective face of the primary telescope mirror.

This work was done by Terry Cafferty of TC Technology and Virginia Ford of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the January, 2008 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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