A report discusses a computational- simulation study of phase- front propagation in the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), in which space telescopes would transmit and receive metrological laser beams along 5-Gm interferometer arms. The main objective of the study was to determine the sensitivity of the average phase of a beam with respect to fluctuations in pointing of the beam. The simulations account for the effects of obscurations by a secondary mirror and its supporting struts in a telescope, and for the effects of optical imperfections (especially tilt) of a telescope. A significant innovation introduced in this study is a methodology, applicable to space telescopes in general, for predicting the effects of optical imperfections. This methodology involves a Monte Carlo simulation in which one generates many random wavefront distortions and studies their effects through computational simulations of propagation. Then one performs a statistical analysis of the results of the simulations and computes the functional relations among such important design parameters as the sizes of distortions and the mean value and the variance of the loss of performance. These functional relations provide information regarding position and orientation tolerances relevant to design and operation.

This work was done by Miltiadis Papalexandris of Caltech and Eugene Waluschka of Goddard Space Flight Center for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Physical Sciences category. NPO-30709.


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Tilt-Sensitivity Analysis for Space Telescopes

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This article first appeared in the July, 2003 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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