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Lightweight Optics for Directed Energy Systems


OBJECTIVE: The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is pursuing technology to develop the next generation airborne laser. This system will be weight constrained. Therefore, MDA is interested in investigating novel concepts to create lightweight optics and coatings while maintaining high power densities because the beam control system is projected to comprise a significant portion of the weapon system weight. High-performance optical substrates, coatings, and the expertise required to develop and produce them are essential elements for continued successful development of directed energy weapon systems for military purposes, as well as the development of other defense and scientific applications. Proposed here is the development of innovative materials, processes, and methods for production of substrates and coatings for high-power lasers. Of specific interest are optics for Combined Fiber Lasers (CFL) at a wavelength of 1064 nanometers and Diode Pumped Alkali Laser Systems (DPALS) at a wavelength of 795 nanometers. DESCRIPTION: MDA is interested in development of innovative transmissive and reflective, lightweight optics for compact, high power lasers in airborne high altitude environments. To that end, the following focus areas are delineated. 1) Optical substrates and coatings which are resistant to contamination and the presence of 100m-class particles. 2) Optical substrates and coatings that can withstand power intensities up to 100 kW/cm2 for 10-cm-class size optics, and up to 1kW/cm2 for 1-m-class size optics. 3) Optical substrates and coatings that can operate in the constraints of a high altitude environment (55-65kft) with respect to temperature and pressure. 4) Optics that can be manufactured, cleaned, and polished ranging in size from 10cm to 1m-class and still meet power density criteria. Any cost or schedule reductions in the manufacturing process is also highly desired. 5) Optics that can remain stable under thermal loads of 10s of seconds of laser operation. 6) Optical materials that maintain performance with lower size and weight requirements for large telescope and pointing mirrors when compared to other leading technology such as Silicon Carbide (SiC). 7) Development of new processes for production of high-quality windows and their geometries with extremely low impurity levels. Concepts for optics and coatings consistent with the above focus areas will advance the state of the art for lightweight optical components in high power directed energy systems. Lightweight optical components are highly desired for a variety of space and airborne applications, in both the defense and commercial communities. PHASE I: Demonstrate in Phase I through modeling, analysis, and proof-of-principle experiments of critical elements for the proposed technology for further investigation in Phase II. Phase I work should clearly validate the viability of the proposed technology. Phase I should result in a clear technology development plan, schedule, transition risk assessment, and requirements document. Offerors are highly encouraged to work with High Energy Laser (HEL) system integrators and/or their respective sub-system contractors to help ensure applicability of the proposed effort and the viability of the technology for transition. PHASE II: The Phase II objective is to validate a scalable and producible technology approach that MDA users and prime contractors can transition in Phase III to their unique laser application. Validate the feasibility of the Phase I concept by development and demonstration of witness samples that will be tested to ensure compliance with requirements. Validation would include, but not be limited to, system simulations, operation in test-beds, or operation in a demonstration subsystem. The goal of the Phase II effort is to demonstrate technology viability. A partnership with a current or potential supplier of MDA systems, subsystems or components is highly desirable and should include testing of samples. The final report should include but is not limited to the methods, results, and shortcomings of claims in support of success of the candidate systems for the corresponding focus areas. PHASE III: In this phase, the contractor will apply the innovations demonstrated in the first two phases to one or more MDA systems, subsystems, or components. The objective of Phase III is to demonstrate the scalability of the developed technology, transition the component technology to the MDA system integrator or payload contractor, mature it for operational insertion, and demonstrate the technology in an operational level environment. DUAL USE/COMMERCIALIZATION POTENTIAL: The contractor will pursue commercialization of the various technologies developed in Phase II for potential commercial uses in other Department of Defense high energy laser systems, missile windows, satellite systems, observatories; and other commercial systems requiring high quality lightweight optics.
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