ORA to develop advanced software for NASA

Oct. 19, 2004
Pasadena, CA, October 19, 2004--Optical Research Associates (ORA) announced that it has received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop advanced software for specialized optical design.

Pasadena, CA, October 19, 2004--Optical Research Associates (ORA) announced that it has received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop advanced software for specialized optical design.

Specifically, ORA will create optical modeling and design tools to analyze and support beam-propagation results at a contrast level of 1x10-11. This is a performance improvement in this area of several orders of magnitude over current commercially available optical-design software with related features. Accurate analysis at such high contrast levels can support cutting-edge applications such as the NASA Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) project, which may use a specialized telescope system designed to separate the dim reflected light from extra-solar planets from the bright glare of their nearby parent stars.

Achieving such an enormous improvement in beam-propagation precision will require ORA to implement an entirely new approach as compared to traditional modeling techniques, which are usually based on fast-Fourier-transform (FFT) calculations. The accuracy of FFT-based calculations is limited by the particular sampling methods employed. In this SBIR-funded project, ORA will develop entirely new ways of modeling full vector propagation of electromagnetic waves while including the effects of complicated apertures and mid-spatial frequency surface figure errors.

In related news, ASML Optics is developing specially figured optical corrector plates for the NASA-proposed Extra-Solar Planetary Imaging Coronagraph (EPIC) telescope for discovering extra-solar planets. The aspheric plates have specially figured mid-spatial-frequency errors that compensate errors in the primary mirror, resulting in a wavefront quality of lambda/1000. ASML has already fabricated a paraboloid with intentional mid-spatial-frequency errors to test the technology, as well as a test corrector plate. The work will be featured in the December 2004 issue of Laser Focus World.

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