For release: 09/17/03
Release #: 03-161
NASA conference promotes government-wide cooperation in space optics technology
"Mirror Technology Days," a symposium to share information about government-wide space optics work, is being held today through Thursday at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Sponsored by the university's Center for Applied Optics and NASA's Marshall Center in Huntsville, the conference includes about 150 participants representing government, government contractors, and universities.
A symposium to share information about government-funded space optics work – with the goal of getting the best return on government technology investments – will be held Sept. 16-18, in Huntsville, Ala.
Sponsored by the University of Alabama in Huntsville Center for Applied Optics and organized by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, "Mirror Technology Days" will be held in the university's Chan Auditorium.
At least 150 participants are expected for the three-day conference, where more than 75 presenters will summarize work being done in mirror technology development.
Symposium participants will include representatives from government, government contractors, and universities involved in government-funded optics work.
"The event will facilitate communication among various organizations, to better determine what others are doing in the area of space optics," said Phil Stahl, technical lead for Marshall space optics technology efforts. "We want to build on knowledge already out there and coordinate our activities," Stahl said.
The government is investing in mirror technology to enable a wide range of future space telescopes, Stahl said. Larger telescope mirrors must be lighter and stiffer, and they must be easier to manufacture to bring costs down.
"Mirrors are a critical component in large space telescopes such as the Hubble and its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope," said Stahl. "Telescopes of the future require ever larger mirrors that allow us to see further back in time – toward the beginning of the universe – and provide higher quality images with finer detail."
The Marshall Center, with more than 30 years of experience on sophisticated optical systems for space exploration, has developed several of the world's largest space-based
observatories for NASA, including Skylab's Apollo Telescope Mount, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the world's most powerful X-ray telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory.
Marshall, with help from the UAH Center for Applied Optics, recently completed tests on two mirror technology candidates for the James Webb Space Telescope – one beryllium and one ultra-low-expansion glass. The beryllium candidate was selected as the mirror material for the James Webb Space Telescope, successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. Ball Aerospace & Technology Corporation, Boulder Colo., will build the segmented, beryllium-based optic for the telescope's 6.5-meter primary mirror. Once built, the mirror segments will be incorporated into optical assemblies and subjected to further tests at Marshall.
The University of Alabama in Huntsville's Center for Applied Optics was part of the mirror testing team for the Webb Telescope mirror candidates. The center was responsible for building optical instrumentation pallets used for cryo-vac testing, performing alignments and mirror surface measurements, and performing data reduction and analysis used to select the winning mirror technology.
The conference is being supported by Small Business Innovation Research.
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