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Multi-aperture Sensors for High Speed Weapon Applications


OBJECTIVE: Develop concepts that take advantage of multi-aperture sensor technology to actively mitigate thermal loading associated with Mach 5+ flight. Innovative sensor solutions are desired for high-speed guidance, navigation, and situational awareness. DESCRIPTION: Multi-aperture sensors based on biological principles offer numerous advantages: low weight and complexity, very wide field of view, low optical distortion, large depth of field, and minimal solar exclusion. Recently, multi-aperture designs have been developed in both the visible and infrared to demonstrate these advantages for general purpose wide-field-of-view sensing. Multi-aperture sensors might have distinct advantages for thermally stressing high-speed flight due to the decreased individual aperture size and multi-use potential for the structure connecting the apertures. The smaller individual apertures could minimize thermal gradients and the structure connecting the apertures could provide a means for cooling through some combination of conduction, internal convection, and transpiration cooling. Cooling is critical to these applications due to the increased noise and associated loss of sensitivity resulting from elevated backgrounds. This degradation is compounded by increased optical component emissivity in some bands as the temperature rises. Combinations of active cooling and algorithmic solutions may be possible that will enhance sensitivity and reduce background and spatial noise in the high enthalpy environments associated with hypersonic flight. Innovative concepts are desired that take advantage of the design features of multi-aperture technologies to demonstrate operational capability in regimes that would typically limit exposure to very short duration or require flowfield coolant injection with associated optical degradation. The confluence of a number of disciplines is likely required to prove concept feasibility: optical modeling, structural response, thermal response, radiance transport, flowfield modeling and boundary layer energy transfer. PHASE I: Investigate concepts for application of multi-aperture sensors to high-speed flight. Perform design tradeoffs using modeling and simulation techniques. Down-select and perform detailed prototype design for future concept demonstration and design an experimental process for design validation. PHASE II: Implement, integrate and demonstrate hardware and software solution(s) developed in Phase I. Execute an experimental program using the prototype hardware to demonstrate performance capabilities and limitations. Document the design concept and prototype experimental results. Design and document a final concept based on lessons learned during the Phase II activity. PHASE III: Transition technology to military and space applications, addressing manufacturing and producability issues. Establish ties to major DoD contractors for development and demonstration of designs in relevant high-speed environments. REFERENCES: 1. Patent US 7,587,109 B1,"Hybrid Fiber Coupled Artificial Compound Eye,"Spectral Imaging Laboratory, Francis Mark Reininger, Sep. 8, 2009. 2. 3. Harris, D.C., Materials for Infrared Windows and Domes Properties and Performance, SPIE Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8194-3482-5.
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