Precision latching of deployed, robotically-emplaced, or astronaut-assembled optical components has long been a challenge for NASA observatories ranging in size from cubesat to Terrestrial Planet Imager. A family of low-cost but precise latch systems would have application to stellar and planetary observatories as well as atmospheric transmission measurement systems. In addition to data gathering, optical systems are also used for high bandwidth communications. Deployed, large area laser communications optics would increase data throughput from interplanetary missions as well as earth orbiting systems. A ready-to-go, integrated deployable cubesat telescope system would provide a capability available to many NASA scientists, enabling them to fly a wide range of planetary and stellar science instruments using a common, low-cost front end.
There are many Department of Defense and Intelligence Community applications of earth observing telescopes. The quality and quantiy of information gathered by these instruments would be greatly increased by larger, deployed apertures. As with the NASA instruments, these deployed telescope components must be precisely and stably locked into place when deployment is complete. The ground military also uses optical devices both for observation and communications. The proposed latch technology would also apply to rapidly erected telescope systems for ground soldiers, either for observations or for secure laser communications. In addition to government users, there are a wide range of commercial applications for precision restraint of optical components. As one example, PSI fabricates and sells ophthalmological diagnostic tools for retinal imaging. As different patients use the device, different headsets must be fitted to the front end of the device. A low cost means of precisely securing the different headsets would reduce the blurring of the retinal image and improve clinical outcomes.