22 July 2016 Precision optical edges for a starshade external occulter
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Abstract
The use of a starshade is one technique to perform high contrast imaging with space-based telescopes. The primary function of a starshade is to suppress light from a target star in order to image its orbiting planets. In order to provide the proper apodization function the edges of the starshade must follow a precise in-plane profile. However of equal importance is the issue of light from our own sun scattering off of the edges and entering the telescope. A method to alleviate this problem is to make the edges extremely sharp (< 1 μm terminal radius) such that the area available for scattering is minimized. The combination of these two requirements, along with the need to integrate the edges into a 30-40 m dia. deployable structure, present a number of significant engineering challenges. Substrate etching techniques are used to obtain both the intended profile as well as the edge sharpness. Current efforts implement an isotropic etching process on thin metal substrates. This paper discusses the progress towards producing a sharp optical edge at the coupon level. Samples have been characterized using scanning electron microscopy as well as a custom testbed to assess their scattered-light performance.
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John Steeves, Stefan Martin, David Webb, Douglas Lisman, Stuart Shaklan, "Precision optical edges for a starshade external occulter", Proc. SPIE 9912, Advances in Optical and Mechanical Technologies for Telescopes and Instrumentation II, 99122O (22 July 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2233409; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2233409
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