A proposed metrology system would be incorporated into a proposed telescope that would include focusing optics on a rigid bench connected via a deployable mast to another rigid bench holding a focal-plane array of photon counting photodetectors. Deformations of the deployable mast would give rise to optical misalignments that would alter the directions (and, hence, locations) of incidence of photons on the focal plane. The metrology system would measure the relative displacement of the focusing-optics bench and the focal-plane array bench. The measurement data would be used in post-processing of the digitized photodetector outputs to compensate for the mast-deformation-induced changes in the locations of incidence of photons on the focal plane, thereby making it possible to determine the original directions of incidence of photons with greater accuracy.

This Deformation of the Mast would change the position of incidence of the laser beam on the position-sensitive photodiode.
The proposed metrology system is designed specifically for the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) a proposed spaceborne x-ray telescope. The basic principles of design and operation are also applicable to other large, somewhat flexible telescopes, both terrestrial and spaceborne. In the NuSTAR, the structural member connecting the optical bench and the photodetector array would be a 10-mlong deployable mast, and there is a requirement to keep errors in measured directions of incidence of photons below 10 arc seconds (3 sigma).

The proposed system would include three diode lasers that would be mounted on the focusing-optics bench. For clarity, only one laser is shown in the figure, which is a greatly simplified schematic diagram of the system. Each laser would be aimed at a position-sensitive photodiode that would be mounted on the detector bench alongside the aforementioned telescope photodetector array. The diode lasers would operate at a wavelength of 830 nm, each at a power of 200 mW. Each laser beam would be focused to a spot of ≈1-mm diameter on the corresponding position-sensitive photodiode. To reduce the effect of sunlight on the measurements, a one-stage light baffle and an 830-nm transmission filter of 10-nm bandwidth would be placed in front of the position- sensitive photodiode. For each metrology reading, the output of the position-sensitive detector would be sampled and digitized twice: once with the lasers turned on, then once with the lasers turned off. The data from these two sets of samples would be subtracted from each other to further reduce the effects of sun glints or other background light sources.

This work was done by Carl Christian Liebe, Randall Bartman, and Walter Cook of Caltech and William Craig of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.NPO-44119

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Metrology System for a Large, Somewhat Flexible Telescope

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This article first appeared in the January, 2009 issue of Photonics Tech Briefs Magazine.

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