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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Concept for lightweight spaced-based deposition technology

  • Author(s): Fulton, Michael
  • Anders, Andre
  • et al.

In this contribution we will describe a technology path to very high quality coatings fabricated in the vacuum of space. To accomplish the ambitious goals set out in NASA's Lunar-Mars proposal, advanced thin-film deposition technology will be required. The ability to deposit thin-film coatings in the vacuum of lunar-space could be extremely valuable for executing this new space mission. Developing lightweight space-based deposition technology (goal: <300 g, including power supply) will enable the future fabrication and repair of flexible large-area space antennae and fixed telescope mirrors for lunar-station observatories. Filtered Cathodic Arc (FCA) is a proven terrestrial energetic thin-film deposition technology that does not need any processing gas but is well suited for ultra-high vacuum operation. Recently, miniaturized cathodic arcs have already been developed and considered for space propulsion. It is proposed to combine miniaturized pulsed FCA technology and robotics to create a robust, enabling space-based deposition system for the fabrication, improvement, and repair of thin films, especially of silver and aluminum, on telescope mirrors and eventually on large area flexible substrates. Using miniature power supplies with inductive storage, the typical low-voltage supply systems used in space are adequate. It is shown that high-value, small area coatings are within the reach of existing technology, while medium and large area coatings are challenging in terms of lightweight technology and economics.

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