Optical mirrors for space telescopes, which require high precision and high thermal stability, have commonly
been made of glass materials such as ultra low expansion glass (e.g. ULE®) or extremely low expansion glassceramic
(e.g. ZERODUR® or CLEARCERAM®). These materials have been well-known for their reliability
due to their long history of achievements in many space applications.
Ultra-low thermal expansion ceramics NEXCERATM is regarded as one of potential candidate materials crucial for ultralightweight and thermally-stable optical mirrors for space telescopes which are used in future optical missions satisfying extremely high observation specifications. To realize the high precision NEXCERA mirrors for space telescopes, it is important to develop a deterministic aspheric shape polishing and a precise figure correction polishing method for the NEXCERA. Magnetorheological finishing (MRF) was tested to the NEXCERA aspheric mirror from best fit sphere shape, because the MRF technology is regarded as the best suited process for a precise figure correction of the ultralightweight mirror with thin sheet due to its advantage of low normal force polishing. As using the best combination of material and MR fluid, the MRF was performed high precision figure correction and to induce a hyperbolic shape from a conventionally polished 100mm diameter sphere, and achieved the sufficient high figure accuracy and the high quality surface roughness. In order to apply the NEXCERA to a large scale space mirror, for the next step, a middle size solid mirror, 250 mm diameter concave parabola, was machined. It was roughly ground in the parabolic shape, and was lapped and polished by a computer-controlled polishing machine using sub-aperture polishing tools. It resulted in the smooth surface of 0.6 nm RMS and the figure accuracy of ~ λ/4, being enough as pre-MRF surface. A further study of the NEXCERA space mirrors should be proceeded as a figure correction using the MRF to lightweight mirror with thin mirror sheet.
NEXCERATM cordierite ceramics, which have ultra-low thermal expansion properties, are perfect candidate materials to be used for light-weight satellite mirrors that are used for geostationary earth observation and for mirrors used in ground-based astronomical metrology. To manufacture the high precision aspheric shapes required, the deterministic aspherization and figure correction capabilities of Magnetorheological Finishing (MRF) are tested. First, a material compatibility test is performed to determine the best method for achieving the lowest surface roughness of RMS ~0.8nm on plano surfaces made of NEXCERATM ceramics. Secondly, we will use MRF to perform high precision figure correction and to induce a hyperbolic shape into a conventionally polished 100mm diameter sphere.