Design, Implementation and Operation of a Sparse Aperture Imaging Satellite Testbed
In order to better understand the technological difficulties involved in designing and building a sparse aperture array, the challenge of building a white light Golay-3 telescope was undertaken. The MIT Adaptive Reconnaissance Golay-3 Optical Satellite (ARGOS) project exploits wide-angle Fizeau interferometer technology with an emphasis on modularity in the optics and spacecraft subsystems. Unique design procedures encompassing the nature of coherent wavefront sensing, control and combining as well as various system engineering aspects to achieve cost effectiveness, are developed. To demonstrate a complete spacecraft in a 1-g environment, the ARGOS system is mounted on a frictionless air-bearing, and has the ability to track fast orbiting satellites like the ISS or the planets. Wavefront sensing techniques are explored to mitigate initial misalignment and to feed back real-time aberrations into the optical control loop. This paper presents the results and the lessons learned from the conceive, design, implement and operate phases of ARGOS. A preliminary assessment shows that the beam combining problem is the most challenging aspect of sparse optical arrays. The need for optical control is paramount due to tight beam combining tolerances. The wavefront sensing/control requirements appear to be a major technology and cost driver.
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