Third CREOL/PAFB workshop an important resource for telescope developers, users

June 8, 2007
June 8, 2007, Orlando, FL--The third in a series of Modern Optical Imaging Systems Design, Test, and Evaluation Workshops will be held at the University of Central Florida's Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL) in Orlando, Florida, on 29-30 October 2007.

June 8, 2007, Orlando, FL--The third in a series of Modern Optical Imaging Systems Design, Test, and Evaluation Workshops will be held at the University of Central Florida's Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL) in Orlando, Florida, on 29-30 October 2007. These workshops, sponsored jointly by the University of Central Florida and Patrick Air Force Base's Damewood Optical Maintenance Laboratory, are tailored to meet the needs of both telescope developers and users. They are structured to identify the latest hardware and techniques in optical engineering.

Optical engineers and scientists from the US and Canada will exchange information on subjects ranging from full-wavefront interferometry, to optical alignment, CCD camera compatibility, and seeking ways to improve image quality through cost-effective testing and shop methodology.

The first two workshops, which were held in March and October 2006, emphasized telescope-performance characterization in situ and in the optics laboratory, telescope component and system monitoring, environmental and operational effects assessment, and means of acquiring and analyzing interferograms. A highlight of these workshops was a tour of the laboratory, working exhibits, and demonstrations. More than 80 attendees spent a full two days interacting with colleagues at each of these meetings. A major benefit of the first two workshops has been the continuing interaction and networking of several informal groups of attendees who discovered common interests in specific technical areas.

During the Workshops held in 2006, a number of critical issues were identified. These issues included the problem of representing the image quality of a telescope with an accurate rendering, a picture of a real object such as the Space Shuttle, and the process of comparing that image with a theoretically perfect picture. The solution to this problem was found in the implementation of a new concept, the Telescope Interferometric Maintenance and Evaluation (TIME) tool.

To satisfy the requirements of an ever-growing, sophisticated customer community, full-wavefront interferometry has been used and accepted as the means to generate meaningful properties of an existing, range tracking telescope. Portability of testing equipment--for example, a LUPI (laser unequal-path interferometer) or PDI (point diffraction interferometer)--and ease of use allow optical wavefront data to be acquired in situ. These data can be used to generate critical information such as Seidel aberrations, MTF curves, point-spread function, and Strehl ratios, in order to decide whether or not a telescope has degraded from its original design condition or has undergone a "modification" that has handicapped its ability to perform its intended mission.

In addition to finding means of quantifying telescope quality, the 2006 workshops also discovered a shortfall in the area of telescope and sensor compatibility. With the National Test Ranges in transition from film to CCD cameras, the full capability of a diffraction-limited optical system must be matched to the latest CCD or IR focal-plane camera technology. Range telescopes are expected to track dynamic targets and provide near-perfect imagery over a wide dynamic range. CCD camera technology offers the opportunity to achieve these goals. However, more attention needs to be paid to camera state-of-the-art and to the design details of the imaging optical train. Issues such as camera menu control levels and ease of access, relay lenses, zoom features, stops, baffles, focal-plane design including pixel count, pitch, and format, as well as image compression and high-speed digital transmission techniques need to be optimized for today's customer. This October 2007 workshop is intended to bring interested parties together to discuss ways of integrating individual capabilities and knowledge into an overall system approach for obtaining better imagery.

Finally, a number of testing protocols were discussed in the 2006 workshops and several exhibits were made available during tours of the local laboratories and maintenance facilities both at Patrick Air Force Base and at the University of Central Florida's CREOL in Orlando. Exhibits of optical products and instruments, testing hardware, and presentations on testing protocols at this year's October workshop will be even more important since the availability of 10 and even greater megapixel cameras have become commonplace and cost-effective. Emphasis will be placed on interfacing these innovations with operating range tracking telescopes and exploiting breakthroughs in software development.

A formal call for presentations is underway. Interested parties are encouraged to contact the general chairman, James Harvey, at CREOL (407) 823-6818. Harvey's e-mail address is [email protected]. Parties interested in attending the conference may contact Joseph Salg, PAFB, 321-494-7263, or at [email protected]; or contact Harvey.

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