The Space Interferometry Mission, scheduled for launch in 2008, is an optical stellar interferometer with a 10 meter baseline capable of micro-arcsecond accuracy astrometry. A mission-enabling technology development program is underway at JPL, including the design and test of heterodyne interferometer metrology gauges to monitor the separation of optical components of the stellar interferometer. The gauges are required to have a resolution of 15 picometers and to track the motion of mirrors over several meters. We report laboratory progress in meeting these goals.
The Planetary Imaging Concept Testbed Using a Rocket Experiment (PICTURE 36.225 UG) was designed
to directly image the exozodiacal dust disk of ǫ Eridani (K2V, 3.22 pc) down to an inner radius of 1.5 AU.
PICTURE carried four key enabling technologies on board a NASA sounding rocket at 4:25 MDT on October
8th, 2011: a 0.5 m light-weight primary mirror (4.5 kg), a visible nulling coronagraph (VNC) (600-750 nm), a
32x32 element MEMS deformable mirror and a milliarcsecond-class fine pointing system.
Unfortunately, due to a telemetry failure, the PICTURE mission did not achieve scientific success. Nonetheless,
this flight validated the flight-worthiness of the lightweight primary and the VNC. The fine pointing system,
a key requirement for future planet-imaging missions, demonstrated 5.1 mas RMS in-flight pointing stability.
We describe the experiment, its subsystems and flight results. We outline the challenges we faced in developing
this complex payload and our technical approaches.
We report progress on a nulling coronagraph intended for direct imaging of extrasolar planets. White light is suppressed
in an interferometer, and phase errors are measured by a second interferometer. A 1020-pixel MEMS deformable mirror
in the first interferometer adjusts the path length across the pupil. A feedback control system reduces deflections of the
deformable mirror to order of 1 nm rms.
Direct detection of exo-planets from the ground will become a reality with the advent of a new class of extreme-adaptive
optics instruments that will come on-line within the next few years. In particular, the Gemini Observatory will be
developing the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) that will be used to make direct observations of young exo-planets. One
major technical challenge in reaching the requisite high contrast at small angles is the sensing and control of residual
wave front errors after the starlight suppression system. This paper will discuss the nature of this problem, and our
approach to the sensing and control task. We will describe a laboratory experiment whose purpose is to provide a means
of validating our sensing techniques and control algorithms. The experimental demonstration of sensing and control will
be described. Finally, we will comment on the applicability of this technique to other similar high-contrast instruments.
We describe the advantages of a nulling coronagraph instrument behind a single aperture space telescope for detection and spectroscopy of Earth-like extrasolar planets in visible light. Our concept synthesizes a nulling interferometer by shearing the telescope pupil into multiple beams. They are recombined with a pseudo-achromatic pi-phase shift in one arm to produce a deep null on-axis, attenuating the starlight, while simultaneously transmitting the off-axis planet light. Our nulling configuration includes methods to mitigate stellar leakage, such as spatial filtering by a coherent array of single mode fibers, balancing amplitude and phase with a segmented deformable mirror, and post-starlight suppression wavefront sensing and control. With diffraction limited telescope optics and similar quality components in the optical train (λ/20), suppression of the starlight to 10-10 is readily achievable. We describe key features of the architecture and analysis, present the status of key experiments to demonstrate wide bandwidth null depth, and present the status of component technology development.
The nulling coronagraph is one of 5 instrument concepts selected by NASA for study for potential use in the TPF-C
mission. This concept for extreme starlight suppression has two major components, a nulling interferometer to suppress
the starlight to ~10-10 per airy spot within 2 λ/D of the star, and a calibration interferometer to measure the residual
scattered starlight. The ability to work at 2 λ/D dramatically improves the science throughput of a space based
coronagraph like TPF-C. The calibration interferometer is an equally important part of the starlight suppression system.
It measures the measures the wavefront of the scattered starlight with very high SNR, to 0.05nm in less than 5 minutes
on a 5mag star. In addition, the post coronagraph wavefront sensor will be used to measure the residual scattered light
after the coronagraph and subtract it in post processing to 1~2x10-11 to enable detection of an Earthlike planet with a
SNR of 5~10.
A new type of laser retroreflector has been developed for JPL's future Space Interferometry Mission. The retroreflector consists of an assembly of prisms of form multiple hollow cornercubes. This allows the limited field of view of about 60 degrees of a single corner can be overcome, to comply with the geometry of an optical truss. In addition, an innovative feature is that the retroreflector has common vertices, in order to define a single point optical fiducial necessary for point-to-point 3D laser metrology. The multiple cornercube provides better thermal stability and optical performance than spherical and hemispherical type retroreflectors. In manufacturing the prototype, the key technology of assembling prisms to the interferometric accuracy has been demonstrated. A non common vertex error of a few micrometers has been achieved.
The SIM metrology subsystem utilizes cornercube retroreflectors as fiducials. These components will introduce errors in the metrology output that must be quantified. Eventually, a complete modeling of the metrology subsystem will be needed. For that purpose, we are developing an optical model for a cornercube retroreflector, taking into account most of the defects present in such an optical part. Our goal is to given a phase map of the wavefront produced by the interference of the reference beam and the metrology beam. Our first step towards this goal is the construction of an optical model and its validation, using the MACOS and VSIM packages.
The micro-arcsecond metrology testbed (MAM) is a high- precision long baseline interferometer inside a vibration- isolated vacuum tank. The instrument consists of an artificial star, a laser metrology system, and a single- baseline interferometer with a 1.8m baseline and a 5cm clear aperture. MAM's purpose is to demonstrate that the astrometric error budget specified for the Space Interferometry Mission can be met.