As shown in the figure, 1) the aerosol cloud is first released; 2) it is contained by laser pressure to avoid dissipation and disruption by tidal forces, 3) it is shaped by optical manipulation into a two-dimensional object (coarse control), and 4) ultimately into a surface with imaging characteristics (fine control). The cloud shape has to be maintained against orbital disturbances by continuous optical figure control, also achieved optically. Applying differential light pressure re-targets the entire cloud, so that a change of line-of-sight can be induced. Selected parts of the aerosol are reshaped when required for precision wavefront control, thus enabling higher quality optics. The entire imaging system is now in full operation, searching for exoplanets (5), or engaged in remote sensing investigations (6).
Marco Quadrelli - Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA Office of the Chief Technologis