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NASA Tech Briefs | August 01 2012
MEMS Deformable Mirrors Enable Imaging of Earth-Sized Extra-Solar Planets

The NASA-sponsored space exploration project, PICTURE (Planet Imaging Concept Testbed Using a Rocket Experiment), seeks to obtain a direct image of an extra-solar giant planet. The PICTURE telescope, which uses a BMC deformable mirror for adaptive optic wavefront control, was launched aboard a NASA sounding rocket in October 2011. Preliminary data show that the MEMS deformable mirror was successful in its operation.

BMC was awarded a Phase II contract by NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to support NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration program. The Phase II contract was awarded after BMC successfully completed its Phase I project, and will expand upon those results of increased reliability.

One of NASA’s core objectives is to search for earth-sized planets outside of our solar system. Deformable mirrors play a key role in space-based imaging as they are used to correct the residual aberrations that space telescope optics cannot address. In - struments in space-based imaging have unique reliability challenges due to the harsh environment in which they operate; deformable mirrors are subject to ionizing radiation that can cause instability in the voltages that drive the deformable mirror.

This grant will enable BMC to construct a 2,048-actuator, continuous-facesheet MEMS deformable mirror with enhanced reliability to handle the harsh environments, advancing the development of space-based, high-contrast imaging instruments.