skip to main content

DARPA CubeSat experiment may support future Space Force initiatives

A new CubeSat experiment by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), designed to explore the use of microelectronic materials in extra-terrestrial environments, could pay dividends for future capabilities fielded by the US Space Force and the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency.

DARPA’s Deformable Mirror (DeMi) CubeSat programme was launched from the International Space Station (ISS) on 13 July. The deployment of the DeMi CubeSat kicked off the initial phase of the agency’s technology demonstration of the microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) mirror, mounted inside a CubeSat-deployable miniature telescope, a DARPA fact sheet stated. The agency’s Tactical Technology Office is the directorate spearheading the DeMi CubeSat and MEMS mirror demonstration programmes.

“This [launch] is exploring how to produce very high-quality optical characteristics, optical apertures using microelectronic materials” that can withstand the rigors of operating in a space environment, DARPA Acting Director Peter Highnam told a small group of reporters on 30 July.

DARPA’s Deformable Mirror CubeSat deploying from the International Space Station on 13 July 2020 (Credit: NASA)

DARPA’s Deformable Mirror CubeSat deploying from the International Space Station on 13 July 2020 (Credit: NASA)

Specifically, the microelectronic elements integrated into the MEMS mirror will be able to responsively adjust the angle and shape of the mirror’s reflective surface, the fact sheet stated. The reactive responses in the MEMS mirror are designed to counter dramatic changes in temperature or mechanical changes aboard the telescope itself, it added. Those temperature or mechanical changes can negatively affect the imagery produced by the telescope or the equipment itself.

“This is us de-risking things,” in terms of ensuring the quality of the telescope’s imagery and the durability of the system, Highnam said regarding the need for the DeMi CubeSat programme. “These and other technologies we are doing are guaranteed to be of great use to the Space Force” in conjunction with the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency, he added.

Looking to read the full article?

Gain unlimited access to Janes news and more...