Sandia Micromirrors Eyedfor Next Generation Space Telescope
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Nov. 15 -- Micromirrors from Sandia National Laboratories could play a role in NASA's Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST). This successor to the Hubble Space Telescope will search the universe for remnants from the Dark Zone , the period 100 million to one billion years after the Big Bang when the first stars and galaxies formed. According to Ernie Garcia, Sandia's lead engineer on the mirror development effort, the goal is to design mirrors that will be very, very small, move independently and be able to withstand the very cold temperatures and extreme conditions of space. The mirrors are to be sensitive to infrared radiation and thus to the faint signals remaining from the Dark Zone.
NASA approached Sandia last year with a request to develop prototype microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) mirrors that could be part of the NGST, which is tentatively scheduled to launch in 2008. In a September exhibition at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., Garcia demonstrated an array of three rows of working mirrors that each measured 100 µm by 100 µm, with 1-µm gaps between adjacent mirrors. Each row was able to tilt 10 degrees in unison, which was described by Sandia as a large angle for this design.
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