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Northrop Grumman delivers primary space mirror for UMass Lowell

16 Jun 2015

...while PG&O and Schott team up on another specialized mirror project.

Designed to significantly advance the science and technology supporting exoplanet research, the PICTURE B mission by the Center for Atmospheric Research at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, (UMass Lowell) reached a major milestone. The primary mirror, engineered and built by AOA Xinetics, a Northrop Grumman company, was delivered and accepted by the university.

UMass Lowell's PICTURE B (“Planet Imaging Coronagraphic Technology Using a Reconfigurable Experimental Base”) is a two-phase program set up to measure the debris disks and exozodiacal dust that surround nearby stars. Accurate measurements of dust are a critical part of exoplanet research, as the data will enable astronomers to assess the impact of the debris and dust on their observations.

Significant impact

Professor Supriya Chakrabarti, of the Center for Atmospheric Research, commented, “PICTURE B cannot help but have an important impact on exoplanet science and our understanding of our place in the Galaxy. This is an exciting project and we are pleased with the work from AOA Xinetics to help make it a success.”

To support the scientific goals of PICTURE B, AOA Xinetics engineered a robust 22in-diameter silicon carbide mirror with "exceptional performance" due to the aspheric optical figure, low thermal expansion and high thermal conductivity. The mirror has proven its soundness for flight through extensive analysis and environmental testing.

Michael Sheedy, business area manager, AOA Xinetics, commented, "In our on-going work supporting coronagraphic missions, we provide the precision optics and optical systems necessary to meet some of the most stringent requirements placed on ground- and space-based imaging instruments. Our silicon carbide mirrors are a new generation of high performance, lightweight mirrors for astrophysics, and are ideally suited for the PICTURE B mission."

The first flight of PICTURE B is scheduled for launch aboard a NASA Sounding Rocket in the Fall of 2015. The initial flight will collect data from the debris disk around Epsilon-Eri, a bright star expected to be harboring a planet in its dust ring.

PG&O and Schott team up on specialized mirrors project

Precision Glass & Optics, a US-based optics company, has teamed up with Schott (U.S.) to provide a new optical mirrors white paper and instructional video on the unique glass substrate, Borofloat 33.

PG&O selected Borofloat glass for the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment mirrors project at Texas A&M and University of Texas, Austin. The telescope is designed to measure dark energy in outer space.

Dan Bukaty, Jr., president of PG&O, commented, “Borofloat was a great choice because of its low thermal expansion characteristics, excellent optical properties, and relatively low cost. Specifications for optical mirrors are extremely demanding because even slight deviations can have a significant impact on performance."

He continued, "The specialty optical mirrors used in the 150 spectrographs of the Visible Integral Field Replicable Unit Spectrographs (VIRUS) unit were carefully fabricated and coated in our Southern California facility. It was an exciting application for PG&O, and happily, a very successful project.”


Below is the new PG&O / Schott Borofloat video:

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

Berkeley Nucleonics CorporationHÜBNER PhotonicsLaCroix Precision OpticsHyperion OpticsECOPTIKCHROMA TECHNOLOGY CORP.Universe Kogaku America Inc.
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