Of interest to JPL, GRC and GSFC are laser communications telescopes (LCTs) with 30 to 100 cm clear aperture, wavefront error (WFE) less than 62 nm, cumulative WFE and transmission loss not to exceed 3-dB in the far field, advanced thermal and stray light design for operation while sun-pointing (3-degrees from the edge of the sun); -20° C to 50° C operational range (wider range preferred), and areal density <65kg/m2. Telescope dimensional stability, low scatter, extreme lightweighting, and precision structures are a common theme across the NASA 2017 Physics of the Cosmos and Cosmic Origins Program Annual Technology Report. Multiple Priority Tier 1-4 technology gaps can be found, and the higher priorities require a solution in time for the next Decadal Survey. A common solution of interest that has been cited is silicon carbide and 3D printing or additive manufacturing. RoboSiC technologies provide both. GT proposes to design, 3D print and additively manufacture a prototype Gregorian LCT using the patent pending RoboSiC-S technology demonstrated in Phase I, including bolts, truss structures, mirror mounts. Off-axis mirrors will be printed. RoboSiC-S provides the degree of passive athermality required for the LCT optical pathlength and wavefront error stability, concomitant with low areal density mirrors (7.75-10 kg/m2) and structures (4-5 kg/m2), and a theortical first unit cost for an LCT with a fast steering mirror is $1.5M, a factor of 3-4 less than current LCTs. A Phase IIE project is planned which will integrate 3D printed RoboSiC mirrors into the telescope and perform environmnetal and other tests to raise the TRL to 6 for commercial sales.
The NASA market opportunity for free-space optical communications requires increased data volume returns from space missions in multiple domains: >100 gigabit/s cislunar (Earth or lunar orbit to ground), >10 gigabit/s Earth-sun L1 and L2, >1 gigabit/s per AU-squared deep space, and >100 megabit/s planetary lander to orbiter. RoboSiC telescopes are applicable for detection of gravity waves, detection of dark, cold objects such as exoplanets and asteroids, or even missions to study the sun.
Non-NASA applications include commercial free space communications, complex telescopes for Astronomy, Imaging, Surveillance and Remote Sensing applications, e.g., fire fighting, power and pipeline monitoring, search and rescue, atmospheric and ocean monitoring, imagery and mapping for resource management, and disaster relief and communications.