The 2017 decadal survey called out a need to reduce mission costs for space-based earth observation. To help meet this need, Quartus Engineering Incorporated (Quartus) is proposing leveraging analytical models and existing opto-mechanical designs to provide a shift in the approach to the development of Custom Optical Science Telescope Payloads-as-a-Service (COSTPaaS) for deployment on CubeSats and small satellite platforms. It is common for technology to be leveraged from mission to mission, such as customizable CubeSat, small sat, or larger satellite buses. This is less common with precision optical subsystems, which are often designed from the ground up to meet the science needs of a mission. If the appropriate work is done to validate the analytical tools used to design optical components and subsystem designs, beyond a particular use case, these tools could be used to adapt current component and subsystem designs to new missions.
Quartus will perform correlation of analytical data to as-tested thermal data on a system-level basis, with the system being an afocal reflective telescope consisting of three optics. The fine-tuned analytical approach will then be able to be translated to other optical systems, for trustworthy, validated thermal optical performance results, without the need for thermal testing.
In addition to the thermal testing of an afocal reflective system for correlation results, Quartus will also validate a flight-ready design of the afocal system for Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment IV (SAGE IV) for thermal performance. This system will be a deliverable at the conclusion of the SBIR Phase II effort, to be used either as a flight instrument or spare for a future SBIR Phase III SAGE IV flight mission.
Quartus is building the COSTPaaS approach around the SAGE IV instrument, thus the immediate potential NASA application is an anticipated Phase III SAGE IV technical flight demo. Beyond the immediate benefits to the SAGE IV program, any number of low TRL programs could engage with Quartus during initial systems engineering to leverage the work done to date. One example that can leverage results from lessons learned and actual hardware from this work is DEMETER IIP, an instrument which Quartus is currently working on with LaRC to develop.
The COSTPaaS approach can save cost and schedule by taking a program TRL from 2-6 in relatively short order. This can open up high-end science instrument development for smaller missions who may lack the funding and timelines to be able to “start from scratch” each time, such as universities. Prime contractors have also expressed interest in accelerating their missions with COSTPaaS instruments.