We present the technical status of the Ultra Lightweight Telescope for Research in Astronomy (ULTRA) program. The program is a 3-year Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program funded by NSF. The MRI is a collaborative effort involving Composite Mirror Applications, Inc. (CMA), University of Kansas, San Diego State University and Dartmouth College. Objectives are to demonstrate the feasibility of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) composite mirror technology for ground-based optical telescopes. CMA is spearheading the development of surface replication techniques to produce the optics, fabricating the 1m glass mandrel, and constructing the optical tube assembly (OTA). Presented will be an overview and status of the 1-m mandrel fabrication, optics development, telescope design and CFRP telescope fabrication by CMA for the ULTRA Telescope.
Several commercial telecommunication ventures together with a
well funded US military program make it a likely possibility that an
autonomous, high-altitude, light-than-air (LTA) vehicle which
could maneuver and station-keep for weeks to many months will be a reality in a few
years. Here I outline how this technology could be used to develop a
high-altitude astronomical observing platform which could return
high-resolution optical data rivaling those from space-based
platforms but at a fraction of the cost.