VNC and LISA (Research and Development)


VNC – We support the design, analysis and development of Micro Electrical-Mechanical System (MEMS) Deformable Mirrors used to precisely control wavefront for high-contrast imaging instruments. The Mirrors are being developed in support of NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program and the ROSES Technology Development for Exoplanet Missions (TDEM). These Mirrors are a critical piece of technology in the Visible Nulling Coronagraph (VNC), a hybrid instrument that combines an interferometer with a coronagraph. GSFC is currently proposing to use the VNC instrument and Deformable Mirrors technology on a balloon-borne instrument to detect Jupiter and other Earth-sized planets.

Through our support to the Deformable Mirror R&D team, we have demonstrated the ability to tackle challenging structural analysis problems in addition to developing system level requirements.

LISA – Newton supported the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) Program with GSFC Code 600 personnel. Our primary task was focused on the specification, design and prototype testing of the LISA Optical Assembly Tracking Mechanism (OATM). Secondary tasks included the redesign of thermal shielding used in the LISA Laser Cavity and the re-design of critical MGSE used to support the bonding process of a SiC telescope structure. Each of these tasks presented their own unique engineering challenges, which were driven by the requirement to maintain ~10 picometer accuracy at the heart of the spacecraft instruments; free-floating gold and platinum proof masses.

Our support to the LISA OATM development and related laboratory R&D efforts directly reflects Newton’s ability to translate science requirements into real hardware. The OATM development effort was successful, resulting in the identification of actuators and mechanism components that exceeded operational requirements and maintained a precision of greater than 0.5 nanometers over the entire length of mechanism travel. More important, the efforts on this task reflect our ability to provide multidisciplinary engineering services including design; structural analysis; thermal analysis; hardware fabrication, assembly and vendor oversight; subassembly verification (actuator testing) and; Ground Support Equipment development.