During 2014 and 2015, NASA's Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) mission proceeded success- fully through Phase C, Design and Development. An X-ray (0.2-12 keV) astrophysics payload destined for the International Space Station, NICER is manifested for launch in early 2017 on the Commercial Resupply Services SpaceX-11 flight. Its scientific objectives are to investigate the internal structure, dynamics, and energetics of neutron stars, the densest objects in the universe. During Phase C, flight components including optics, detectors, the optical bench, pointing actuators, electronics, and others were subjected to environmental testing and integrated to form the flight payload. A custom-built facility was used to co-align and integrate the X-ray "con- centrator" optics and silicon-drift detectors. Ground calibration provided robust performance measures of the optical (at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center) and detector (at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) subsystems, while comprehensive functional tests prior to payload-level environmental testing met all instrument performance requirements. We describe here the implementation of NICER's major subsystems, summarize their performance and calibration, and outline the component-level testing that was successfully applied.
A miniature Fabry-Perot tunable infrared filter under development at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is fabricated using micro opto electromechanical systems (MOEMS) technology. Intended for wide-field imaging spectroscopy in space flight, it features a large 10-mm diameter aperture structure that consists of a set of opposing
suspended thin films 500 nanometers in thickness, supported by annular silicon disks. Achieving the desired effective finesse in the MOEMS instrument requires maximizing the RMS flatness in the film. This paper presents surface characterization data for the suspended aperture film prior to, and following application of a multi-layer dielectric mirror. A maximum RMS flatness of 38 nanometers was measured prior to coating, leading to an estimate of the maximum
effective finesse of 14. Results show evidence of initial deformation of the silicon support structure due to internal stress in the substrate and thin film layers. Film stress gradients in the dielectric coating on either side of the aperture add convexity and other localized deflections. The design of a tuning system based upon electrostatic positioning with feedback control is presented.
The Earth Atmospheric Solar-Occultation Imager (EASI) is a proposed interferometer with 5 telescopes on an 8-meter boom in a 1D Fizeau configuration. Placed at the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrange point, EASI would perform absorption spectroscopy of the Earth’s atmosphere occulting the Sun. Fizeau interferometers give spatial resolution comparable to a filled aperture but lower collecting area. Even with the small collecting area the high solar flux requires most of the energy to be reflected back to space. EASI will require closed loop control of the optics to compensate for spacecraft and instrument motions, thermal and structural transients and pointing jitter. The Solar Viewing Interferometry Prototype (SVIP) is a prototype ground instrument to study the needed wavefront control methods. SVIP consists of three 10 cm aperture telescopes, in a linear configuration, on a 1.2-meter boom that will estimate atmospheric abundances of O2, H2O, CO2, and CH4 versus altitude and azimuth in the 1.25 - 1.73 micron band. SVIP measures the Greenhouse Gas absorption while looking at the sun, and uses solar granulation to deduce piston, tip and tilt misalignments from atmospheric turbulence and the instrument structure. Tip/tilt sensors determine relative/absolute telescope pointing and operate from 0.43 - 0.48 microns to maximize contrast. Two piston sensors, using a robust variation of dispersed fringes, determine piston shifts between the baselines and operate from 0.5 - 0.73 microns. All sensors are sampled at 800 Hz and processed with a DSP computer and fed back at 200 Hz (3 dB) to the active optics. A 4 Hz error signal is also fed back to the tracking platform. Optical performance will be maintained to better than λ/8 rms in closed-loop.
We discuss work in progress on a near-infrared tunable bandpass filter for the Goddard baseline wide field camera concept of the Next Generation Space Telescope Integrated Science Instrument Module. This filter, the Demonstration Unit for Low Order Cryogenic Etalon (DULCE), is designed to demonstrate a high efficiency scanning Fabry-Perot etalon operating in interference orders 1 - 4 at 30 K with a high stability DSP based servo control system. DULCE is currently the only available tunable filter for lower order cryogenic operation in the near infrared. In this application, scanning etalons will illuminate the focal plane arrays with a single order of interference to enable wide field lower resolution hyperspectral imaging over a wide range of redshifts. We discuss why tunable filters are an important instrument component in future space-based observatories.