By Peter Lawson
On 30-31 May 2012, the ExEP Technology Assessment Committee (TAC) visited the exoplanet technology efforts ongoing at both the NASA Ames Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. At Ames, Glenn Schneider (University of Arizona) described for them the EXCEDE Category 3 technology development that will be undertaken with support from the NASA Explorer Program. His team hopes to attain contrasts of 1 part in 1,000,000 at an inner working angle of 1λ/D, demonstrated first in-air at Rus Belikov’s Ames Coronagraph Experiment and subsequently under-vacuum at Lockheed Martin’s Palo Alto facility. This work will use Phase-Induced Amplitude Apodization.
At JPL the TAC congratulated John Trauger on his Report documenting contrast demonstrations with Hybrid Lyot masks of almost 1 part in 1,000,000,000 at 3λ/D using bandwidths of 20%. The TAC also toured the starshade technology work, hosted by Stuart Shaklan, Mark Thomson, and Doug Lisman, where they viewed a completed prototype starshade petal, machined to flight tolerances. This work is being led by Jeremy Kasdin (University of Princeton), and will be followed by a separate deployment test in the coming year. The TAC continued their visit with a tour of JPL’s vacuum coronagraph testbeds, paying particular attention to Jagmit Sandhu’s Visible Nulling Coronagraph, whose plans they reviewed that afternoon.
We’ve made excellent progress this year, and I’m looking forward to updating the ExEP Technology Plan Appendix later this summer. The Appendix describes the current technology priorities of the Program and provides an update of advances in each focus area. It is intended to be a useful resource for proposers interested in the TDEM component of the ROSES solicitation on Strategic Astrophysics Technology. The current Appendix places the greatest emphasis on demonstrations of starlight suppression, using either coronagraphs or starshades. In the coming year and through the involvement of our (yet to be established) Community Study Teams, we will be working to tailor our technology efforts to better enable smaller Probe-class missions.