Nano and Micro Systems
Collaborations to Develop Miniaturization Technologies for Space Exploration
MDL is a participant in several collaborative technology development efforts for future space exploration. As part of an ongoing study by Caltech under the auspices of the Keck Institute of Space Studies, MDL and Caltech will develop a lightweight, deformable-membrane mirror technology for an in-space reconfigurable large-area telescope system. In addition, two new Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)–funded programs to develop precision microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) gyroscopes are in progress. The first is a collaborative effort with UC Irvine to build 3D-micromachined rate integrating gyroscopes; such devices would have infinite bandwidth. The second is a JPL-led project to design and build a miniature inertial measurement unit with an integrated clock. Both efforts leverage pioneering work on increased-sensitivity resonant vibratory MEMS sensors through construction from intrinsically high-quality-factor materials. NASA applications for these technologies include inertial navigation of miniature spacecraft, precision pointing of spacecraft instruments, and control during the critical entry, descent, and landing phase of lander missions.