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Station‐Keeping Requirements for Constellations of Free‐Flying Collectors Used for Astronomical Imaging in Space

Ronald J. Allen
Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Vol. 119, No. 858 (August 2007), pp. 914-922
DOI: 10.1086/521276
Stable URL:
Page Count: 9
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ABSTRACT The accuracy requirements on station‐keeping for constellations of free‐flying collectors that are coupled as (future) imaging arrays in space for astrophysics applications are examined. The basic imaging element of these arrays is the two‐element interferometer. Accurate knowledge of two quantities is required: the “projected baseline length,” which is the distance between the two interferometer elements projected on the plane transverse to the line of sight to the target, and the “optical path difference,” which is the difference in the distances from that transverse plane to the beam combiner. Rules of thumb are determined for the typical accuracy required on these parameters. The requirement on the projected baseline length is a “knowledge” requirement and depends on the angular size of the targets of interest. It is generally at a level of half a meter for typical stellar targets, decreasing to perhaps a few centimeters only for the widest attainable fields of view. The requirement on the optical path difference is a “control” requirement and is much tighter, depending on the bandwidth of the signal. It is at a level of half a wavelength for narrow (few percent) signal bands, decreasing to ≈0.2 λ for the broadest bandwidths expected to be useful. Translation of these requirements into engineering requirements on station‐keeping accuracy depends on the specific details of the collector constellation geometry. Several examples are provided to guide future application of the criteria presented here. Some implications for the design of such collector constellations and for the methods used to transform the information acquired into images are discussed.

Notes and References

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