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Lightweight Optical Benches and Mounting Structures


OBJECTIVE: The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is pursuing technology to develop the next generation airborne laser. Part of the design places an emphasis on weight constraints; therefore MDA is placing interest in investigating materials to manufacture lightweight optical benches while maintaining high degrees of stiffness for low vibration and precision alignment. MDA is also interested in exploring novel designs for lightweight optical bench mounting structures with a high degree of vibration isolation. Eventual designs for directed energy systems must be opto-thermo-mechanically stable. The resulting product would have numerous other military and scientific applications on any platform that would require weight restrictions on the optical components. DESCRIPTION: The purpose of this topic is creating lighter weight optical benches for high-altitude (55-65kft) airborne applications. Methods of achieving this goal could be state-of-the-art materials, improved layering processes, or other methods to help achieve a lighter bench structure density. This topic also covers novel concepts for creating lightweight mounting structures capable of meeting vibration isolation goals. Low vibration optical benches and mounts contribute to accomplishing<300nrad of jitter on target for a high altitude airborne laser while also being light enough to be carried on high altitude UAVs. This state-of-the-art innovation would provide a new solution for weight and volume-restricted systems or platforms used in government and commercial applications with improved performance. Goals for optical bench designs include the following: a surface area near 145"x 50", a maximum weight of 375lbs, and a first mode frequency of 30Hz. Benches should be scalable to aforementioned dimensions and have thicknesses that help achieve isolation goals. These are desired goals for operation and any novel solution that does not meet these goals will still be considered. By approaching or exceeding these parameters with unique material or design solutions the current state-of-the-art will be pushed beyond what is available today for space borne platforms and aerospace optics. Mounting structures designs may include novel and unique approaches. The designs should maximize isolation performance and minimize volume and weight. PHASE I: Develop a preliminary design for the proposed bench or mounting structure. Proof of concept hardware development and test is highly desirable. Trades discussing the decision for the chosen option are also recommended. The Phase I work product should include a clear technology development plan, schedule, and transition risk assessment. These details should be presented in the Phase I final report. Offerors are highly encouraged to interact with DVL for feedback and input to ensure the final products are developing along a useful path. PHASE II: Complete a critical design of the prototype component developed in Phase I. Fabricate a prototype or a demonstration model and perform characterization testing within financial and schedule constraints of the program to show level of performance achieved compared to stated government goals. PHASE III: Develop and execute a plan for a commercially viable version of the device developed in Phase II, including marketing and manufacturing. Assist MDA in transitioning this technology to the appropriate Ballistic Missile Defense System prime contractor(s) for the engineering integration and testing. DUAL USE/COMMERCIALIZATION USE/COMMERCIALIZATION POTENTIAL: A design of a lightweight, low vibration optical bench has numerous commercial applications. Outside the MDA, numerous other Department of Defense applications of the technology include, but not limited to: aerospace optics, space borne platforms and any platform that would require weight restrictions on the optical components. The contractor is encouraged to identify additional commercialization opportunities.
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