14 September 2005 The flight instrument design for the Terrestrial Planet Finder Interferometer
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Abstract
The direct optical detection of Earth-like planets orbiting nearby stars is the goal of the Terrestrial Planet Finder Interferometer (TPF-I). At infrared wavelengths between about 7 and 17 μm, spectral absorption features in the thermal emission of such planets may indicate the presence of chemical compounds thought necessary for the existence of life. To perform nulling interferometry at these relatively long wavelengths, a long baseline telescope array is needed with an overall length between about 30 m and 200 m. The current flight design effort is concentrated on the dual chopped Bracewell architecture but the design of the flight instrument is to a large degree independent of the exact array layout. Four 4 m diameter telescopes employing a conventional three-mirror design collect the light from the star and a series of sensors and actuators direct the light to a separate beamcombiner spacecraft where a number of beam control actions take place prior to the science light detection. This paper describes the opto-mechanical systems of the telescopes and beamcombiner spacecraft including the wavefront and optical path control devices and the alignment systems. The opto-mechanical layouts of the spacecraft are outlined along with the results from preliminary thermal and vibration performance models of the structure. The layout of the beamtrain control system is also described.
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Stefan Martin, Stefan Martin, } "The flight instrument design for the Terrestrial Planet Finder Interferometer", Proc. SPIE 5905, Techniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets II, 590503 (14 September 2005); doi: 10.1117/12.615528; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.615528
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