Future X-ray astronomy missions require light-weight thin shells to provide large collecting areas within the weight limits of launch vehicles, whilst still delivering angular resolutions close to that of Chandra (0.5 arc seconds). Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, is a well-established technology with the ability to construct or ‘print’ intricate support structures, which can be both integral and light-weight, and is therefore a candidate technique for producing shells for space-based X-ray telescopes. The work described here is a feasibility study into this technology for precision X-ray optics for astronomy and has been sponsored by the UK Space Agency’s National Space Technology Programme. The goal of the project is to use a series of test samples to trial different materials and processes with the aim of developing a viable path for the production of an X-ray reflecting prototype for astronomical applications. The initial design of an AM prototype X-ray shell is presented with ray-trace modelling and analysis of the X-ray performance. The polishing process may cause print-through from the light-weight support structure on to the reflecting surface. Investigations in to the effect of the print-through on the X-ray performance of the shell are also presented.
Additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, has become a commercially established technology for rapid prototyping and the fabrication of bespoke intricate parts. Optical components, such as mirrors and lenses, are now being fabricated via additive manufacturing, where the printed substrate is polished in a post-processing step. One application of additively manufactured optics could be within the astronomical X-ray community, where there is a growing need to demonstrate thin, lightweight, high precision optics for a beyond Chandra style mission. This paper will follow a proof-of-concept investigation, sponsored by the UK Space Agency’s National Space Technology Programme, into the feasibility of applying additive manufacturing in the production of thin, lightweight, precision X-ray optics for astronomy. One of the benefits of additive manufacturing is the ability to construct intricate lightweighting, which can be optimised to minimise weight while ensuring rigidity. This concept of optimised lightweighting will be applied to a series of polished additively manufactured test samples and experimental data from these samples, including an assessment of the optical quality and the magnitude of any print-through, will be presented. In addition, the finite element analysis optimisations of the lightweighting development will be discussed.
The Multi-Object Optical and Near-infrared Spectrograph (MOONS) will cover the Very Large Telescope's (VLT) field of view with 1000 fibres. The fibres will be mounted on fibre positioning units (FPU) implemented as two-DOF robot arms to ensure a homogeneous coverage of the 500 square arcmin field of view. To accurately and fast determine the position of the 1000 fibres a metrology system has been designed. This paper presents the hardware and software design and performance of the metrology system. The metrology system is based on the analysis of images taken by a circular array of 12 cameras located close to the VLTs derotator ring around the Nasmyth focus. The system includes 24 individually adjustable lamps. The fibre positions are measured through dedicated metrology targets mounted on top of the FPUs and fiducial markers connected to the FPU support plate which are imaged at the same time. A flexible pipeline based on VLT standards is used to process the images. The position accuracy was determined to ~5 μm in the central region of the images. Including the outer regions the overall positioning accuracy is ~25 μm. The MOONS metrology system is fully set up with a working prototype. The results in parts of the images are already excellent. By using upcoming hardware and improving the calibration it is expected to fulfil the accuracy requirement over the complete field of view for all metrology cameras.