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Astrophysics Research and Analysis Program

High Precision Assembly of Thin Mirror X-ray Telescopes

Active Technology Project

Project Introduction

High Precision Assembly of Thin Mirror X-ray Telescopes
Lightweight high resolution x-ray telescope optics are one of the key technologies under development for next-generation x-ray telescopes. The ultimate goal of this effort is to realize optics with spatial resolution rivaling Chandra (<1 arc-sec) but with collecting areas that are larger by orders of magnitude. In the USA several institutions, including GSFC, MSFC, Harvard-SAO, MIT and Northwest University are working on a variety of approaches to this problem. An excellent example is the NuSTAR x-ray telescope, which teamed Cal Tech, GSFC, Columbia University and LLNL to produce a superb set of hard x-ray optics. The telescope was composed of thousands of 0.2 mm-thick glass mirrors which were epoxied into place around a spindle structure. While very light weight, this process resulted in ~1 arc min resolution. We want to achieve ~100 times better with similar mass. A group at NASA GSFC has recently demonstrated an alternative thin-glass assembly procedure that has achieved ~7 arc sec resolution with x-ray tests. Further progress towards 1 arc-sec will require mirrors with improved figure, lower stress coatings, improved alignment, better metrology, and low stress bonding. Many of the difficulties with current mirror assembly practice stem from the use of epoxy as a bonding agent. Epoxy has many disadvantages, including high shrinkage, large CTE and creep, resin aging effects, water absorption, outgassing, low tensile strength, exothermicity, and requiring large amounts of time and/or heat to cure. These effects can cause errors that become “frozen in” to the bond with no possibility of correction. We propose to investigate replacing epoxy with low temperature, low shrinkage solder alloys. We use these solders in conjunction with high power, millisec-long pulses from a fiber IR laser to deliver controlled amounts of heat into the bond area. We have demonstrated that laser pulses can be used to actuate carefully designed bonds by permanently compressing or expanding a very thin and brief surface melt in the solder by amounts controlled in the nanoscale range, allowing post assembly correction of the mirror mount points. We believe this technology will be one of the keys to realize a sub-1 arc-sec thin-glass x-ray telescope. More »

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