27 July 2016 SOFIA secondary mirror mechanism heavy maintenance and improvements
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Abstract
The Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) reached its full operational capability in 2014 and completed hundreds of observation flights. Since its installation in 2002, the Secondary Mirror Mechanism was subject to thousands of operating hours equivalent to millions of load cycles. During the aircraft heavy maintenance in fall 2014, a four month time window enabled the removal of the mechanism from the telescope structure for service and improvements. Next to visual corrosion- and crack-inspection of the flexures, critical electronic components (in particular the set of three eddy current position sensors that determine the mirror tilt) were replaced. Moreover, a detailed temperature dependent position calibration of the system was performed in a cold chamber to improve the pointing accuracy. Until then, a simple temperature independent linear gain was used to translate the sensor output voltage into a position. For accurate positioning across the whole temperature range, a temperature dependent correction function had to be developed. This calibration would have cost hours of observing time when performed in flight which made it an essential goal for completion during the maintenance period. An autocollimator was used as optical reference camera to measure the tip-tilt position of the secondary mirror in the cold chamber. Using this calibration setup, a pattern of many mirror positions in the tip-tilt domain was approached at several temperature points to provide a high resolution data set for the new multidimensional calibration function. Follow-up in-flight verification measurements confirmed a large improvement in pointing accuracy as soon as the temperature measurements were included into the position correction. Improvements of up to a factor of 10 were especially noticed in the lower temperature range. This contribution provides an insight into the work performed during the SOFIA - Secondary Mirror Mechanism maintenance with the focus on the temperature dependent position calibration.
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Yannick Lammen, Andreas Reinacher, Ivar Kjelberg, Serge Droz, Holger Jakob, Friederike Graf, Michael Lachenmann, Alfred Krabbe, "SOFIA secondary mirror mechanism heavy maintenance and improvements", Proc. SPIE 9906, Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes VI, 99061R (27 July 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2231352; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2231352
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