28 July 2014 Successful Starshade petal deployment tolerance verification in support of NASA’s technology development for exoplanet missions
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Abstract
A Starshade is a sunflower-shaped satellite with a large inner disk structure surrounded by petals. A Starshade flies in formation with a space-borne telescope, creating a deep shadow around the telescope over a broad spectral band to permit nearby exoplanets to be viewed. Removing extraneous starlight before it enters the observatory optics greatly loosens the tolerances on the telescope and instrument that comprise the optical system, but the nature of the Starshade dictates a large deployable structure capable of deploying to a very precise shape. These shape requirements break down into key mechanical requirements which include the rigid-body position and orientation of each of the petals that ring the periphery of the Starshade. To verify our capability to meet these requirements, we modified an existing flight-like Astromesh reflector, provided by Northrup Grumman, as the base ring to which the petals attach. The integrated system, including 4 of the 30 flight-like subscale petals, truss, connecting spokes and central hub, was deployed tens of times in a flight-like manner using a gravity compensation system. After each deployment, discrete points in prescribed locations covering the petals and truss were measured using a highly-accurate laser tracker system. These measurements were then compared against the mechanical requirements, and the as-measured data shows deployment accuracy well within our milestone requirements and resulting in a contrast ratio consistent with exoplanet detection and characterization.
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D. Webb, D. Webb, N. J. Kasdin, N. J. Kasdin, D. Lisman, D. Lisman, S. Shaklan, S. Shaklan, M. Thomson, M. Thomson, E. Cady, E. Cady, G. W. Marks, G. W. Marks, A. Lo, A. Lo, } "Successful Starshade petal deployment tolerance verification in support of NASA’s technology development for exoplanet missions", Proc. SPIE 9151, Advances in Optical and Mechanical Technologies for Telescopes and Instrumentation, 91511P (28 July 2014); doi: 10.1117/12.2057258; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2057258
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