KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M., Jan. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. Air Force scientists have developed a deployable optical telescope to fit into a typical rocket body.
Their efforts will eventually produce significantly improved tactical imagery supporting the joint warfighter on the battlefield, the Air Force said Tuesday.
Positioning three delicate, circular mirrors to one one-thousandth of the width of a human hair consistently challenged scientists at the Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M, the USAF said. For five years they have studied the deployable optical telescope, a 1.5 meter (approximately 4.9 feet) in size demonstrator, which represents the future of foldable, larger aperture optics housed in existing launch vehicles.
One year ago, the research team discovered a breakthrough for the complex experiment and the technology advancement will eventually produce significantly improved tactical imagery supporting the joint warfighter on the battlefield.
"When all of us in the beginning saw what we had to do to get the deployable optical telescope study completed, there were some doubts to getting it done because it might take too long, but we nailed it," said Lawrence "Robbie" Robertson, chief, Dynamics and Controls Group, Space Vehicles Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, according to the report carried by the Department of Defense. "We wanted to give the warfighter better tactical imagery."
In 1995, six researchers at the Space Vehicles Directorate desired to construct a larger telescope for the U.S. Air Force for applications in the cosmos, and within a few months they had completed a conceptual design structure, conducted the required analysis, and began building a test bed for their vision.
Serving as the experiment's model, NASA's Hubble Telescope, launched in April 1990 from the Space Shuttle Discovery, measured 2.4 meters (8 feet) in diameter.