A report discusses selected aspects of a continuing program to develop thermally stable, lightweight mirrors for planned Earth-observing spaceborne instruments. These mirrors are required to retain precise concave or convex surface figures required for diffraction-limited optical performance, even in the presence of transient, asymmetric thermal loads, which include solar heating and radiational cooling. In the first phase of the program, preliminary analyses were performed to select one of three types of mirror structures: one made of SiC, one made of Be, and a hybrid comprising a lightweight composite-material substructure supporting a glass face sheet that would be a substrate for the required precise optical surface. The hybrid structure was selected for further development because it would offer a combination of high stiffness and low mass and because, relative to the Be and SiC structures, (1) the coefficients of thermal expansion of its constituent materials and the resulting wavefront error would be smaller, and (2) it could be fabricated at lower cost. A prototype hybrid structure with an aperture diameter of 0.3 m was fabricated. Planned efforts in the next phase of the program include optical polishing of the glass face sheet and testing.

This work was done by Greg Mehle and Dan Federico of Composite Optics, Inc., for Marshall Space Flight Center. To obtain a copy of the report, "Thermally Stable Lightweight Mirrors for Earth Observing Instruments," access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.nasatech.com/tsp under the Physical Sciences category.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2002 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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