Over the past few years there has been remarkable success flying imaging telescope systems suspended from suborbital balloon payload systems. These imaging systems have covered optical, ultraviolet, sub-‐millimeter and
infrared passbands (i.e. BLAST, STO, SBI, Fireball and others). In recognition of these advances NASA is now considering ambitious programs to promote planetary imaging from high altitude at a fraction of the cost of similar fully orbital systems. The challenge with imaging from a balloon payload is delivering the full diffraction-‐limited resolution of the system from a moving payload. Good progress has been made with damping mechanisms and oscillation control to remove most macroscopic movement in the departures of the imaging focal plane from a static configuration, however a jitter component remains that is difficult to remove using external corrections.
This paper reports on work to demonstrate in the laboratory the utility and performance of actuating a detector focal plane (of whatever type) to remove the final jitter terms using an agile hexapod design. The input to this demonstration is the jitter signal generated by the pointing system of a previously flown balloon mission (the Stratospheric Terahertz Observatory, STO). Our group has a mature jitter compensation system that thermally isolates the control head from the focal plane itself. This allows the hexapod to remain at ambient temperature in a vacuum environment with the focal plane cooled to cryogenic temperatures. Our lab design mounts the focal plane on the hexapod in a custom cryostat and delivers an active optical stimulus together with the corresponding jitter signal, using the actuation of the hexapod to correct for the departures from a static, stable configuration. We believe this demonstration will make the case for inclusion of this technological solution in future balloon-‐borne imaging systems requiring ultra-‐high resolution.