Very lightweight mirror will be required in the near future for both astronomical and earth science/observation missions. Silicon carbide is becoming one of the major materials applied especially to large and/or light space-borne optics, such as Herschel, GAIA, and SPICA. On the other hand, the technology of highly accurate optical measurement of large telescopes, especially in visible wavelength or cryogenic circumstances is also indispensable to realize such space-borne telescopes and hence the successful missions.
We have manufactured a very lightweight Φ=800mm mirror made of carbon reinforced silicon carbide composite that can be used to evaluate the homogeneity of the mirror substrate and to master and establish the ground testing method and techniques by assembling it as the primary mirror into an optical system. All other parts of the optics model are also made of the same material as the primary mirror.
The composite material was assumed to be homogeneous from the mechanical tests of samples cut out from the various areas of the 800mm mirror green-body and the cryogenic optical measurement of the mirror surface deformation of a 160mm sample mirror that is also made from the same green-body as the 800mm mirror.
The circumstance and condition of the optical testing facility has been confirmed to be capable for the highly precise optical measurements of large optical systems of horizontal light axis configuration. Stitching measurement method and the algorithm for analysis of the measurement is also under study.
We carried out various tests of 800-mm-diameter aperture, lightweight optics that consisted wholly of carbon fiber-reinforced SiC composite, called HB-Cesic. A cryogenic optical test was performed on the primary mirror to examine any CTE irregularity as a surface change, and only small deformations were observed. The primary mirror was assembled with a convex secondary mirror into an optical system and tested under vacuum at the 6-m-diameter radiometer space chamber at Tsukuba Space Center of JAXA, where we have prepared interferometric metrological facilities to establish techniques to test large optical systems in a horizontal light-axis configuration. The wavefront difference between under vacuum and under atmosphere was confirmed to be less than 0.1 λ at λ=633 nm, if we realigned the optical axis of the interferometer and flat mirror under vacuum. We also demonstrated a stitching interferometry using the Φ800-mm optics by rotating a mask wheel of subapertures in front of the optical reference flat. The wavefront stitched from eight individual measurements of Φ275-mm subapertures differs from the full-aperture measurement without the mask by about 0.1 λ nm RMS, which showed the technique could able to be applied to test large telescopes especially for infrared wavelength region.
A large-scale lightweight mirror that is made of silicon carbide-based material is required for the coming astronomical and earth observation missions. The influence of the inhomogeneity of the coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) on specular surface accuracy was studied as an important technological issue for such a large optical component. At first, a systematic case study for the series of CTE’s main factors was conducted using the finite element method, and consequently a comprehensive equation to calculate the amount of surface deviation was derived. Based on that technology, finite element analysis to simulate the surface accuracy profile that a test mirror sample showed during cryogenic measurement was carried out using experimentally obtained CTE data from cutout test pieces, and the profile was successfully reproduced.
Owing to its high specific stiffness and high thermal stability, silicon carbide is one of the materials most suitable for large space-borne optics. Technologies for accurate optical measurements of large optics in the vacuum or cryogenic conditions are also indispensable. Within the framework of the large SiC mirror study program led by JAXA, we manufactured an 800-mm-diameter lightweight telescope, all of which is made of HB-Cesic, a new type of carbon-fiber-reinforced silicon carbide (C/SiC) material developed jointly by ECM, Germany and MELCO, Japan. We first fabricated an 800-mm HB-Cesic primary mirror, and measured the cryogenic deformation of the mirror mounted on an HB-Cesic optical bench in a liquid-helium chamber. We observed the cryo-deformation of 110 nm RMS at 18 K with neither appreciable distortion associated with the mirror support nor significant residual deformation after cooling. We then integrated the primary mirror and a high-order aspheric secondary mirror into a telescope. To evaluate its optical performance, we established a measurement system, which consists of an interferometer in a pressure vessel mounted on a 5-axis adjustable stage, a 900-mm auto-collimating flat mirror, and a flat mirror stand with mechanisms of 2-axis tilt adjustment and rotation with respect to the telescope optical axis. We installed the telescope with the measurement system into the JAXA 6-m chamber and tested them at a vacuum pressure to verify that the system has a sufficiently high tolerance against vibrations in the chamber environment. Finally we conducted a preliminary study of sub-aperture stitching interferometry, which is needed for telescopes of our target missions in this study, by replacing the 900-mm flat mirror with a rotating 300-mm flat mirror.