Enhancing astronomers' ability to peer ever more deeply into the cosmos may hinge on developing larger space-based telescopes. A new concept in space telescope design makes use of a modular structure and an assembly robot to build an extremely large telescope in space, performing tasks in which astronaut fatigue would be a problem.
The robotically assembled modular space telescope (RAMST) design is described by Nicolas Lee and his colleagues at the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in an article published this week by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, in the Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems (JATIS).
Ref: Architecture for in-space robotic assembly of a modular space telescope. Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems (6 June 2016) | DOI: 10.1117/1.JATIS.2.4.041207
An architecture and conceptual design for a robotically assembled, modular space telescope (RAMST) that enables extremely large space telescopes to be conceived is presented. The distinguishing features of the RAMST architecture compared with prior concepts include the use of a modular deployable structure, a general-purpose robot, and advanced metrology, with the option of formation flying. To demonstrate the feasibility of the robotic assembly concept, we present a reference design using the RAMST architecture for a formation flying 100-m telescope that is assembled in Earth orbit and operated at the Sun–Earth Lagrange Point 2.