High performance optics can be utilized on both high power, nuclear-scale or multi-thruster spacecraft for instance, and on low power small/micro/nano-scale spacecraft and satellites of current interest to the Science Mission Directorate. Ion thrusters, utilizing optics, are attractive for deep-space use due to their high specific impulse. In the high power segment, printed grids may find use on large diameter annular-geometry ion engines. Miniaturized ion thrusters can provide nontrivial delta-V capability to CubeSats for orbit raising, orbit plane changes, and potentially allow CubeSats to leave Earth-orbit or perform ambitious deep-space maneuvers.
Gridded ion sources are used extensively in the semiconductor and electro-optical manufacturing industry in etching (sputtering and reactive ion) and physical vapor deposition processes. Optics made using additive manufacturing can potentially meet custom beam-shape or target-profile needs with less-constrained physical shape requirements.