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Mass High Tech | March 7, 2011
NASA moves Boston Micromachines' mirrors forward with grant

By Rodney H. Brown

Boston Micromachines Corp. is continuing its history of developing new technology for NASA with the award of a $100,000 grant to develop a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) mirror for space-based imaging.

Under the Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) contract, Cambridge-based Boston Micromachines has been tasked to develop a reliable, fault-tolerant MEMS-based deformable mirror. BMC plans to apply two new technologies to the program. The first is the development of a MEMS drive that is better at controlling the electrical flow across the motor to help prevent permanent failure if it experiences a single, short-term failure. The second innovation will be in how each drive attaches to its own tiny part of the deformable mirror.

This latest grant would bring the count of NASA grants awarded to BMC up to nine since it was launched in 1999.

BMC has been working in MEMS drives for mirrors for NASA for some time. In January 2010, the company landed $200,000 in two Phase 1 SBIR grants to make the drives as small as possible and run on as little power as possible, as well as develop a process for making the high actuator count deformable mirrors that would use such tiny drives. 

In March 2010, Boston Micromachines won a Small Business Technology Transfer grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop, in partnership with Boston University, a “modulating retro-reflector for asymmetric free space covert communication and remote sensor integration” – essentially a deformable mirror intended to allow for long range ground- and air-based optical signal communication, on the battlefield, from ship-to-ship, and from satellite to round station data transfer.