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Fast Micro-Electromechanical Systems (MEMS) Shutters for Stellar Sensing Applications

Description:

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Microelectronics; Nuclear; Space Technology

 

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

 

OBJECTIVE: Develop a fast (< 0.1s) global optical imager micro shutter (minimum size 0.5 x 0.5 cm2) capable of operating in high radiation, strategic environments over 30-year mission timelines. Control of individual shutter elements or in groups is desirable, but not required.

 

DESCRIPTION: Star trackers are in use on strategic systems, which must survive and operate in harsh radiation environments. Calibration via a closed shutter allows for the direct characterization of radiation induced detector noise apart from the target star. The development of this technology will help enable more capable star trackers to operate with increased reliably in higher radiation environments than currently capable.

 

Existing Micro-Electromechanical Systems (MEMS) shutters have been demonstrated to be reliable in a variety of environments, including space-borne missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) [Ref 3]. The existing technology has been improved with a shift from magnetic to electrostatic operation [Ref 1]. Additional micro-mechanical geared shutters have been developed by industry for applications from TVs to imagers [Ref 2].

 

The objective of this SBIR topic is to develop MEMs shutters that can eventually be utilized to provide live calibration functionality to in-flight calibration sensors in hostile environments. Live calibration data provides options for making strategic missions less sensitive to radiation and allowing them to perform in increasingly hostile environments, with increased precision. The lack of advancement will come at a direct cost to the performance of the strategic systems in terms of performance and concepts of operations with regard to stellar sighting.

 

PHASE I: Develop a design for a fast (< 0.1s) global optical imager micro shutter (minimum size 0.5 x 0.5 cm2) capable of operating in high radiation, strategic environments over 30-year mission timelines. Control of individual shutter elements or in groups is desirable, but not required. Include in the design the plans/methodologies for microfabrication and testing to demonstrate the capabilities desired in Phase II.

The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype solution in Phase II.

 

PHASE II: Based on the Phase I design and execution plan, fabricate and characterize a small lot (up to Qty: 5 wafers) of global optical image micro-shutters. This characterization may include a dynamic/force assessment [Ref 4] and thermal/radiative sensitivity for sample MEMS devices. The prototypes, test samples, and characterization results should be delivered by the end of Phase II.

 

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Based on the prototypes developed in Phase II, continuing development leads to productization of the MEMs micro-shutter device. While this technology is aimed at military/strategic applications, micro-shutters are used more broadly in the space-based astronomy industry. The devices incorporating the MEMS micro-shutters may be subject to several common test environments for strategic sensors, including radiation and vibration environments.

 

REFERENCES:

  1. M. -P. Chang et al., "Development of the Next Generation Microshutter Arrays for Space Telescope Applications," 2020 IEEE 15th International Conference on Nano/Micro Engineered and Molecular System (NEMS), San Diego, CA, USA, 2020, pp. 89-92, doi: 10.1109/NEMS50311.2020.9265604
  2. J. J. Sniegowski and E. J. Garcia, Surface Micromachined Gear Trains Driven by an On-Chip Electrostatic Microengine, IEEE Electron Device Letters, Vol. 17, No. 7, 366, July 1996.
  3. “About Webb Innovations: Microshutters” James Webb Space Telescope NASA. https://webb.nasa.gov/content/about/innovations/microshutters.html
  4. Kyowon Kim, et al. “Characterizations of Optimized Microshutter Arrays for Space Borne Observatory Applications.” 2022 35th International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems, Tokyo, Japan, (9-13 Jan 2022)

 

KEYWORDS: Micro-Electromechanical Systems; MEMs; Microshutter Arrays; Space Telescopes; Star Trackers

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