The Visible Nulling Coronagraph (VNC) is a starlight suppression system for enabling exoplanet detection
and atmospheric measurement. Conceptual space telescope missions including the large UV/optical/IR
(LUVOIR) surveyor require such a starlight suppression system to carry out the scientific goals associated
with directly imaging nearby worlds. Direct imaging is complementary to upcoming missions like TESS, and
should eventually enable access to the > 95% of habitable worlds outside of transit discovery space.
This IRAD supports near-term work to 1) fabricate and test symmetric broad-
band interferometric nulling optics; 2) demonstrate automated fine alignment of the Segmented Aperture
Interferometric Nulling Testbed (SAINT) primary mirror; 3) quantify performance of the SAINT closed-loop
fine pointing system; and 4) assemble, align and demonstrate a radial shear first order implementation of a
system known as the Phase-Occulation Nulling Coronagraph (PONC).
The segmented aperture and pointing system components of this work are motivated to test the VNC as
a high-contrast imaging approach that functions with arbitrary telescope apertures. Future space telescopes
will likely leverage the significant investment developing segmented mirror technology in order to improve
telescope resolution and sensitivity while working within the confines of launch vehicle limitations. If we
are successful with our demonstration, then this expertise in
interferometry, and more specifically, interferometric nulling coronagraphy can be leveraged to motivate the development of
increasingly larger arrays of segmented telescopes beyond JWST, and the LUVOIR concept.
|Organizations Performing Work||Role||Type||Location|
|Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)||Lead Organization||NASA Center||Greenbelt, MD|