Prime focus architectures for large space telescopes: reduce surfaces to save cost

Abstract

Conceptual architectures are now being developed to identify future directions for post JWST large space telescope systems to operate in the UV Optical and near IR regions of the spectrum. Here we show that the cost of optical surfaces within large aperture telescope/instrument systems can exceed $100M/reflection when expressed in terms of the aperture increase needed to over come internal absorption loss. We recommend a program in innovative optical design to minimize the number of surfaces by considering multiple functions for mirrors. An example is given using the Rowland circle imaging spectrometer systems for UV space science. With few exceptions, current space telescope architectures are based on systems optimized for ground-based astronomy. Both HST and JWST are classical “Cassegrain” telescopes derived from the ground-based tradition to co-locate the massive primary mirror and the instruments at the same end of the metrology structure. This requirement derives from the dual need to minimize observatory dome size & cost in the presence of the Earth’s 1-g gravitational field. Space telescopes, however function in the zero gravity of space and the 1g constraint is relieved to the advantage of astronomers. Here we suggest that a prime focus large aperture telescope system in space may have potentially have higher transmittance, better pointing, improved thermal and structural control, less internal polarization and broader wavelength coverage than Cassegrain telescopes. An example is given showing how UV astronomy telescopes use single optical elements for multiple functions and therefore have a minimum number of reflections.

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Breckinridge2016PrimeFA, title={Prime focus architectures for large space telescopes: reduce surfaces to save cost}, author={James B. Breckinridge and Charles F. Lillie}, year={2016} }