Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has tested new telescope technologies for an Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program which utilizes a lightweight polymer membrane.
Ball deployed a 20-meter-diameter telescope in geosynchronous orbit using those technologies as part of DARPA’s Membrane Optic Imager Real-time Exploitation program, Ball Aerospace said Friday.
Rob Strain, Ball Aerospace president, said the system is intended to help reduce costs for space telescopes.
“This technology could apply to a wide-range of applications providing various forms of information to a multitude of users,” Strain added.
The membrane optics for the telescope is designed to cut the mass of large aperture telescopes and incorporates a diffraction pattern for focusing light.
Ball, NeXolve and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory collaborated to build MOIRE’s polymer membranes and the precision etching for diffraction pattern.
“This is the first design to use transparent membranes on a large scale,” said Aaron Seltzer, director of advanced development for Ball Aerospace’s National Defense business unit.
“The result is a telescope with exceptionally low mass per unit of collecting area,” Seltzer added.
The demonstration also included secondary diffractive optical elements for proper chromatic dispersion, membrane stability and laser metrology and active optics for primary and secondary optics alignment.