A report proposes the development of spaceborne telescope/camera systems that would be lightweight, relatively inexpensive alternatives to current systems based on glass mirrors. In a system of the proposed type, the primary reflector (typically a paraboloid several meters in diameter) would be of the membrane-mirror type. The primary reflector would be part of a folded, closed, flexible structure that would be deployed by inflation, then depressurized after being rigidified in the deployed condition. Because the primary reflector would only approximate the required precise reflector surface and because deviations from the required surface would vary with thermal, solar-wind, and microgravitational conditions, the system would also include a two-stage active optical subsystem that would correct wavefront errors in real time.

This work was done by James Breckinridge, Marjorie Meinel, Aden Meinel, and James Bilbro of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-20405

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Telescope/camera systems based on inflation-deployed optics

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This article first appeared in the November, 1999 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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