The goal of this project is to develop and demonstrate a compact, modular adaptive optics system with a beaconless wavefront sensor that advances NASA’s vision for ultra-low-cost, precision optical systems for CubeSats through the mitigation of adverse effects on imaging quality associated with cost and schedule reduction strategies in the design, manufacturing, and testing of optical components.
During the Phase I program, Nanohmics advanced the design and requirements for the modular AO platform through modeling and simulation. The feasibility of the approach was verified through the construction and laboratory testing of a breadboard AO system. Investigations into the optical and system-level requirements for the platform identified multiple, customizable paths for integrating the adaptive optics technology into new and existing optical systems.
During the Phase II program, Nanohmics proposes to mature software and hardware components of the modular adaptive optics platform to develop an operational system prototype by the completion of the program. Nanohmics will also design and build a 180 mm aperture, all-aluminum optical system for area scan imaging at visible and near infrared wavelengths suitable for 12-16U CubeSats and integrate it with the AO platform. The results of laboratory and ground field testing of the imaging system under a range of environmental conditions will demonstrate and characterize the ability of the AO system to compensate for relevant optical aberrations. To advance the AO platform to a TRL of 5+, individual components and subsystems will also undergo a more rigorous set of environmental tests to qualify them for low-Earth orbit environments.
The initial target market is Earth orbit scientific research within NASA SMD, particularly Earth-imaging, astronomy, and optical communication. The ability of the AO system to improve image quality, while reducing the cost and lead time, of optical imagers and multipurpose imaging radiometers is applicable to several target observables listed in the 2017 Earth Science Decadal Survey—in particular, Surface Biology and Geology, Atmospheric Winds, and Aerosols—and those required to meet the goals of NASA’s new Earth System Observatory.
Passive, extended-scene plenoptic wavefront sensing and adaptive optics can be used to improve the imaging capabilities of space and airborne platforms used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, environmental studies, industrial emissions monitoring, oil and gas exploration, agriculture and forestry, and optical communication.