NASA SBIR 2008 Solicitation


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 08-1 S2.04-9652
SUBTOPIC TITLE: Optical Devices for Starlight Detection and Wavefront Analysis
PROPOSAL TITLE: Silicon Carbide Lightweight Optics With Hybrid Skins for Large Cryo Telescopes

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Optical Physics Company
26610 Agoura Road
Calabasas, CA 91302 - 3857
(818) 880-2907

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Marc T Jacoby
26610 Agoura Road
Calabasas, CA 90302 - 3857
(818) 880-2907

Expected Technology Readiness Level (TRL) upon completion of contract: 4

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (Limit 2000 characters, approximately 200 words)
Optical Physics Company (OPC) proposes to manufacture new silicon carbide (SiC) foam-based optics that are composite, athermal and lightweight (FOCAL) that provide an enabling capability for performing NASA space missions that will require 2 to 3 meter class cryogenic mirrors for large infrared telescopes. Open-cell foam core mirror technology has evolved over the past ten years and has produced somewhat large (0.5 m dia.), lightweight (<10 kg/m2), rapidly and uniformly cryo-cooled and dimensionally stable (tested to 25 K) mirrors configured with monolithic chemical vapor deposited (CVD) skins. Significant problems have arisen as the size has increased that prevent their use on large aperture telescopes. These problems include the inherent stress in the monolithic skins which can result in skin cracking during the substrate manufacturing and finishing processes, the non-uniformity of the .040"-.050" thick monolithic skins that typically require .010"-.015" of material removal before a continuous surface can be achieved for optical finishing, the long schedule of manufacturing the mirror substrate, and the large $2M/m2 cost to produce the polished mirror. OPC proposes an innovation where the monolithic SiC skins are replaced with SiC fiber reinforced/SiC CVD skins. This hybrid design consists of a .020"-.030" thick SiC fiber reinforced layer ground to a smooth finish and near net shape, and then post coated with a .005"-.010" thick CVD SiC polishing layer. This provides increased skin strength and toughness to enable the technology to produce meter class mirrors without skin cracking. The manufacturing time and CVD chamber cost are reduced because premanufactured SiC fibers are used to provide the bulk of the skin mass rather than laying down a monolithic skin atom by atom via CVD. The net effect is to produce a SiC FOCAL mirror substrate that is stronger, tougher, scalable to meter class, and potentially better than 50% faster and cheaper to manufacture.

POTENTIAL NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
With the increase in size capability enabled by the hybrid skins, OPC's SiC FOCAL mirrors can potentially provide discriminating critical capabilities to future NASA missions that require cryogenic mirrors or mirror segments. The planned NASA Universe Mission Roadmap for large aperture IR cryogenic telescopes includes SPIRIT in 2015, TPF-I in 2019, SAFIR in 2020 and SPECS in 2025. The mirror or mirror segments required have apertures of one to two meter and three of the four missions require cooling the telescope to 4 oK. If the cost of manufacturing SiC FOCAL mirrors can be significantly reduced, they may be competitive for NASA missions that require large ambient mirrors such as MTRAP (2014), SCOPE (2015), NHST (2020), and TPF-C (2020).

POTENTIAL NON-NASA COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS (Limit 1500 characters, approximately 150 words)
OPC's SiC FOCAL mirror technology represents both a cost and performance breakthrough and is expected to have high visibility within the Government (NASA GSFC, NASA MSFC, Missile Defense Agency, Air Force Research Laboratory DE/VS/ML/SN, National Reconnaissance Office, Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Joint Program Office) and commercial industry (Ball Aerospace off-axis telescopes, Raytheon - scan mirrors, ITT scan mirrors, Boeing SVS mirrors for Relay Mirror systems and Advanced Tactical Laser, Boeing Phantom Works antennas for LEO IS&R missions, Brashear LP telescope optics, Lockheed Martin fast steering and beam control optics, and Northrop Grumman transformational communications). Consequently, there will be many active business development efforts going on with all of these organizations if the technology can be successfully developed.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Optical & Photonic Materials

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