Iris AO technology can be a key enabling component in a host of future NASA missions, including the space telescopes of the SMEX, DISCOVERY and FLAGSHIP programs, and also technological development funded by the SAT and Exoplanet Research programs. Four recent mission concepts (Exo-C, WFIRST, EXCEDE, ACESAT) require multiple DMs to implement coronagraphs. One of these, ACESAT, which was submitted to SMEX, specifically requires MEMS DMs due to their low cost, low weight and low consumption. ATLAST, the next flagship space telescope, may likely be equipped with a VNC planet-finder as the VNC is compatible with segmented primary mirrors and obscurations. Similarly, the emergence of low-cost CubeSats for astronomy and Earth observations suggests that MEMS adaptive-optics technology could be common in the future. Finally, future NASA-funded instruments for ground-based telescope projects like the Extremely Large Telescopes (Thirty Meter Telescope, Giant Magellan Telescope and E-ELT), would likely require adaptive optics to remove aberrations from atmospheric turbulence. Another potential area for Iris AO technology is in laser communications with satellites. Iris AO DMs are capable of handling tens to hundreds of Watts of optical power with dielectric coatings. The DMs could be used to compensate for atmospheric turbulence that inhibits downlink and uplink bandwidth.
The proposed adaptive optics technology would find immediate application in several military communications and imaging products. Systems used in military surveillance such as the Predator and Global Hawk would benefit from the high-resolution, light weight, and low power consumption afforded by Iris AO's MEMS. Atmospheric correction enabled by these low-cost but highly capable devices would benefit space situational awareness surveillance applications as well. In the commercial sector, adaptive optics has been employed in research systems in biological imaging, most notably in vision science and microscopy. Several research universities are reporting results using AO-equipped systems. The high segment-count devices enabled by this proposal would lead to unprecedented levels of spatial fidelity for biological imaging applications. Other commercial applications include metrology, laser processing, coherent combination of multiple fiber lasers, and laser beam quality improvement and drift compensation. Iris AO segmented mirrors are uniquely well suited to higher power applications such as laser processing, combining fiber lasers, and laser beam quality improvement. This advantage lies in the relatively thick segments that enable the use of dielectric coatings which tend to warp conventional surface micromachined MEMS DMs. The precision open-loop operation of Iris AO DMs greatly simplifies the use of DMs in these applications.