MEMS deformable mirrors for space-based high-contrast imaging

Rachel E. Morgan, Ewan S. Douglas, Gregory W. Allan, Paul Bierden, Supriya Chakrabarti, Timothy Cook, Mark Egan, Gabor Furesz, Jennifer N. Gubner, Tyler D. Groff, Christian A. Haughwout, Bobby G. Holden, Christopher B. Mendillo, Mireille Ouellet, Paula do Vale Pereira, Abigail J. Stein, Simon Thibault, Xingtao Wu, Yeyuan Xin, Kerri L. Cahoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) Deformable Mirrors (DMs) enable precise wavefront control for optical systems. This technology can be used to meet the extreme wavefront control requirements for high contrast imaging of exoplanets with coronagraph instruments. MEMS DM technology is being demonstrated and developed in preparation for future exoplanet high contrast imaging space telescopes, including theWide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) mission which supported the development of a 2040 actuator MEMS DM. In this paper, we discuss ground testing results and several projects which demonstrate the operation of MEMS DMs in the space environment. The missions include the Planet Imaging Concept Testbed Using a Recoverable Experiment (PICTURE) sounding rocket (launched 2011), the Planet Imaging Coronagraphic Technology Using a Reconfigurable Experimental Base (PICTURE-B) sounding rocket (launched 2015), the Planetary Imaging Concept Testbed Using a Recoverable Experiment - Coronagraph (PICTURE-C) high altitude balloon (expected launch 2019), the High Contrast Imaging Balloon System (HiCIBaS) high altitude balloon (launched 2018), and the Deformable Mirror Demonstration Mission (DeMi) CubeSat mission (expected launch late 2019). We summarize results from the previously flown missions and objectives for the missions that are next on the pad. PICTURE had technical difficulties with the sounding rocket telemetry system. PICTURE-B demonstrated functionality at > 100 km altitude after the payload experienced 12-g RMS (Vehicle Level 2) test and sounding rocket launch loads. The PICTURE-C balloon aims to demonstrate 10-7 contrast using a vector vortex coronagraph, image plane wavefront sensor, and a 952 actuator MEMS DM. The HiClBaS flight experienced a DM cabling issue, but the 37-segment hexagonal piston-tip-tilt DM is operational post-flight. The DeMi mission aims to demonstrate wavefront control to a precision of less than 100 nm RMS in space with a 140 actuator MEMS DM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number366
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • Exoplanet direct imaging
  • MEMS deformable mirrors
  • Space telescope technology
  • Wavefront control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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