Wavefront sensing in space: Flight demonstration II of the PICTURE sounding rocket payload

Ewan S. Douglas, Christopher B. Mendillo, Timothy A. Cook, Kerri L. Cahoy, Supriya Chakrabarti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


A NASA sounding rocket for high-contrast imaging with a visible nulling coronagraph, the Planet Imaging Concept Testbed Using a Rocket Experiment (PICTURE) payload, has made two suborbital attempts to observe the warm dust disk inferred around Epsilon Eridani. The first flight in 2011 demonstrated a 5 mas fine pointing system in space. The reduced flight data from the second launch, on November 25, 2015, presented herein, demonstrate active sensing of wavefront phase in space. Despite several anomalies in flight, postfacto reduction phase stepping interferometer data provide insight into the wavefront sensing precision and the system stability for a portion of the pupil. These measurements show the actuation of a 32 × 32-actuator microelectromechanical system deformable mirror. The wavefront sensor reached a median precision of 1.4 nm per pixel, with 95% of samples between 0.8 and 12.0 nm per pixel. The median system stability, including telescope and coronagraph wavefront errors other than tip, tilt, and piston, was 3.6 nm per pixel, with 95% of samples between 1.2 and 23.7 nm per pixel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number019003
JournalJournal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Active optics
  • Debris disks
  • Deformable mirrors
  • Direct imaging
  • Exoplanets
  • Exozodi
  • High-contrast imaging
  • Interferometry
  • Sounding rockets
  • Visible nulling coronagraph
  • Wavefront sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Instrumentation
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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