FLUTE – Fluidic Telescope Experiment - The experiment aims to mature our fluidic shaping technology and demonstrate its potential for next-generation large space telescopes
Chief researcher: Prof. Moran Berkowitz, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Technion
Partners: Technion, NASA, Ames Research Center
This experiment was a first-ever demonstration of the manufacture of optical components in space. The demonstration was important for both the development of in-space manufacturing and as a first step toward the creation of ultra-large space telescopes made of fluids.
On Earth, optical components are manufactured using mechanical processes consisting of milling and polishing. These are heavy, energy-intensive processes. They create large quantities of waste and are therefore unsuitable for use in space. This being said, future space missions (for example to Mars), are going to have to be totally autonomous, They will have to be capable of manufacturing multiple optical components within the spacecraft - anything from eyeglasses for the astronauts through to sensors and cameras. NASA is taking an interest in this process as a method of producing ultra-large space telescopes, which so far have been limited in size by the sized of the launch vehicle carrying them to space.
Eytan Stibbe is demonstrated that, through controlling the surface tension of fluids under microgravity, it is possible to manufacture outstanding-quality optical components in space. Using polymers, Eytan will even solidify the fluid lenses and return them to Earth to be scrutinized. This scientific experiment will be accompanied by an in-space educational experiment of creating a lens out of water, and also an Earthbound educational experiment that will enable the students to conduct a similar experiment in the classroom.