Several NASA activities benefit from improvements in mirror performance as well as a significant reduction in areal costs. Earth-observing and space-observing telescopes that are either balloon-borne or on-orbit have a constant need to reduce the cost and mass of their optical systems. In NASA?s search for extraterrestrial life, the mission is to locate stars with planets similar to Earth. Mirror technology is a significant key in determining whether an exoplanet's atmosphere has atmospheric water vapor or carbon dioxide as well as measuring other atmospheric chemicals. Other NASA programs with interest in improved mirror technology include the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractory Observatory (CLARREO), and the European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA dark-energy mission Euclid. WFIRST is a NASA observatory designed to perform wide-field imaging and surveys of the near infrared (NIR) sky. The CLARREO effort is a future Earth-observing mission that will establish climate benchmarks in order to assess optimizing strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change. The Euclid space observing mission will address questions related to the fundamental physics and cosmology on the nature and properties of dark energy, dark matter, and gravity. Reduced mirror areal costs translate directly to cost savings on these projects, increasing chances of success.
Commercial applications for this technology outside of NASA are numerous. In the short term, direct application of the process developed under Phase II to create optics can be used to manufacture mirrors for professional and amateur astronomy / telescopes, as well as adaptive mirrors for military, medical, and automotive applications. We have also identified a number of markets and customers for which there are longer-term applications of our ceramics and mirror technology, following some additional development after the end of the Phase II effort. Our lightweight, high stability materials technology has the potential to supplant older materials technologies (such as carbon fiber and heavier ceramics) in a number of industries, such as energy, automotive, and aerospace, in addition to potential military applications.