Over the last few years significant progress has been made in the development of silicon carbide (SiC) for mirror
applications. These improvements include lightweighting techniques, higher production yields, and larger diameter
apertures. It is now necessary to evaluate and address the systems engineering challenges facing this material to ensure
space qualification and integration into future space applications. This paper highlights systems engineering challenges,
suggests areas of future development, and proposes a systematic path forward that will outline necessary steps to space
qualify this new material.
Production of optical silicon carbide (SiC) for mirror applications continues to evolve and there are renewed plans to use
this material in future space-based systems. While SiC has the potential for rapid and cost-effective manufacturing of
large, lightweight, athermal optical systems, this material's use in mirror applications is relatively new and has limited
flight heritage. This combination of drivers stresses the necessity for a space qualification program for this material.
Successful space qualification will require independent collaboration to absorb the high cost of executing this program
while taking advantage of each contributing group's laboratory expertise to develop a comprehensive SiC database. This
paper provides an overview of the trends and progress in the production of SiC, and identifies future objectives such as
non-destructive evaluation and space-effects modeling to ensure proper implementation of this material into future
Future large-aperture optical space systems will need to use lightweight materials that meet stringent requirements, and that reduce program and launch costs. Lightweight optical systems produced quickly and cost-effectively, and the resultant lighter payloads, can reduce these costs. Mirrors for future systems have areal density goals of less than 5 kg/m<sup>2</sup> and will need to use new materials1. A promising one is silicon carbide (SiC) because of its physical and mechanical properties. These enable the production of low areal density, high quality mirrors, as well as lightweight athermal telescope structures. Athermal structures are desirable because they simplify designs and reduce tolerance requirements to maintain performance during on-orbit temperature changes. The use of SiC to make mirrors and structures is in the developmental stage and has limited space heritage. To ensure the use of this material in space applications, qualification and system performance in the space environment must be addressed. This paper provides an overview of SiC, along with recommendations to further the development of SiC into a mature technology that can be successfully integrated into future large-aperture optical space programs.