Present space-based optical imaging sensors are expensive. Launch costs are dictated by weight and size, and system design must take into account the low fault tolerance of a system that cannot be readily accessed once deployed. We describe the design and first prototype of the space-based infrared imaging interferometer (SIRII) that aims to mitigate several aspects of the cost challenge. SIRII is a six-element Fizeau interferometer intended to operate in the short-wave and midwave IR spectral regions over a 6×6mrad field of view. The volume is smaller by a factor of three than a filled-aperture telescope with equivalent resolving power. The structure and primary optics are fabricated from light-weight space-qualified carbon fiber reinforced polymer; they are easy to replicate and inexpensive. The design is intended to permit one-time alignment during assembly, with no need for further adjustment once on orbit. A three-element prototype of the SIRII imager has been constructed with a unit telescope primary mirror diameter of 165 mm and edge-to-edge baseline of 540 mm. The optics, structure, and interferometric signal processing principles draw on experience developed in ground-based astronomical applications designed to yield the highest sensitivity and resolution with cost-effective optical solutions. The initial motivation for the development of SIRII was the long-term collection of technical intelligence from geosynchronous orbit, but the scalable nature of the design will likely make it suitable for a range of IR imaging scenarios.
- Earth science
- infrared imaging
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics