Occulter Starshade Technology Development


P. Douglas Lisman, Mark Thomson, Andrew Kissil, Phil Walkemeyer, Otto Polanco


Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology


Imaging Earth-like exoplanets with a free flying occulter requires developing a large, lightweight, flower-shaped, deployable structure with precisely controlled edge position and profile. In-plane tolerance requirements are considerably tighter than heritage antenna systems, but the more difficult to control out-of-plane tolerances are actually much looser. This paper presents a novel occulter mechanical design that delivers the required performance with a highly reliable deployment scheme. A very compact stowed volume is an added benefit that enables launching the occulter together with a 1 to 2m class telescope, using a single, currently available launch vehicle. Demonstrating the petal deployment function and compliance with key tolerance specifications is the focus of current technology efforts. A series of prototype models of increasing fidelity are planned, starting with a proof of concept model that is currently in fabrication. The occulter design and current development status is presented herein.