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Session 23 - Science with the Space Interferometry Mission.
Oral session, Wednesday, January 07
International Ballroom Center,

[23.04] Technology Challenges and Mission Realizability for SIM

R. A. Laskin (JPL)

Optical and infrared interferometers are expected to provide the next great leap forward in space-based astronomy beyond the Hubble Space Telescope. The first of these next generation astronomy missions will be the Space Interferometer Mission (SIM). Although capable of producing marvelous science, interferometry does not come without a certain price attached: that price is the considerable technical challenge of successfully building and operating these exacting instruments.

Successful development of SIM requires that three grand technological challenges be met and overcome: nanometer level control and stabilization of optical element on a lightweight flexible structure; (2) sub-nanometer level sensing of optical element relative positions over meters of separation distance; (3) overall instrument complexity and the implications for interferometer integration and test and autonomous on-orbit operation.

These grand challenges in turn drive the state-of-the-art in the areas of alignment and stabilization of optomechanical systems, precision deployable structures, vibration isolation and suppression, laser metrology, and the integration and autonomous operation of complex systems. Facing into these challenges without the benefit of a dedicated technology development program would indeed cast doubt on the ability to implement the SIM system on the planned schedule and at the planned cost. Fortunately, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has been working for the better part of the last decade to develop and test the technology that is enabling to SIM. Progressing from the derivation and flow-down of requirements through the laboratory demonstration of technology at the component level, the JPL program is now at the point of demonstrating interferometer technology at the system level in representative ground integration testbeds as well as in space. This paper will describe this work, and will discuss plans for continued development over the next three years that will culminate in technology readiness for SIM.

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Program listing for Wednesday