The 2017 decadal survey called out a need to reduce mission costs for space-based earth observation. To help meet this need, Quartus Engineering Incorporated (Quartus) is proposing leveraging analytical models and existing opto-mechanical designs to provide a shift in the approach to the development of space-based optical systems for deployment on CubeSats and small satellite platforms. It is common for technology to be leveraged from mission to mission, such as customizable CubeSat, small sat, or larger satellite buses. This is less common with precision optical subsystems, which are often designed from the ground up to meet the science needs of a mission. If the appropriate work is done to validate the analytical tools used to design optical components and subsystem designs, beyond a particular use case, these tools could be used to adapt current component and subsystem designs to new missions. This approach could lead to semi-custom precision optical systems for space applications, much in the same way spacecraft bus suppliers support the science community. This SBIR proposes the validation of the designs and analytical tools used to assess the SAGE IV Pathfinder telescope for structural, thermal, optical performance (STOP), such that these designs and analytical tools can be used to accelerate development and reduce costs of future NASA and other science missions.
As mentioned at the start of this proposal, the 2017 decadal survey called for a means to reduce costs of earth observation missions. The work outlined in this proposal is a step in this direction. By taking an existing optical instrument, in this case the SAGE IV Pathfinder telescope, and expending the effort to validate the analysis tools and designs beyond a specific application, it allows for the extrapolation of this design to other use cases.
Being able to use the same tools and methodology to existing systems reduces the uncertainty associated with the cost and schedule of building a complex optical system for the first time, which translate to reduced schedule and cost risks associated with a new mission. This allows complex one-off optical systems to leverage economy of scale in a way typically unavailable to commercial missions.