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CIERA’s Melville P. Ulmer Receives Funding from NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC)

Professor Ulmer is now a two times over NIAC Fellow. His most recent NIAC award came in June 2015. As a NIAC Fellow, he will serve as Principal Investigator for a project dubbed “Aperture,” short for “A Precise Extremely-large Reflective Telescope Using Re-configurable Elements.” The project goal is to develop a viable concept for large deployable space mirrors with post-deployment correction. The plan is that these mirrors will used for next generation UV-Visible space telescope, such as ATLAST: a 16-m diameter telescope follow on to Hubble. The basic deployment and post-deployment correction concept will also enable high-resolution Earth observing satellites to be located in geosynchronous orbits.

Professor Ulmer has worked on various aspects of both deformable X-ray optics for a beyond Chandra X-ray observatory. Besides his own experience in optics design, his group includes coating experts, material scientists, mechanical engineers and aeronautical engineers.

This innovative concept would enable a paradigm shift in the way space observatories are built. The potential to create paradigm shift in the way some aspect of space exploration is carried out is a key requirement of successful NIAC proposals.

Collaboration and education are also key benefits of “APERTURE”: the project will keep a critical mass of technical expertise together, will serve as a platform for educating students, and it will build collaboration between Illinois Space Grant Members Northwestern and University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (UIUC). The proposal preparation greatly benefited from the UIUC Aeronautical Engineering graduate students, Marie-Caroline Corbineau, Chris Lorenz, and Guanyan Luo all under the supervision of Professor Victoria Coverstone.

Collaborators with Prof. Ulmer:
Jian Cao (Northwestern, Mechanical Engineering)
Yip-Wah Chung (Northwestern, Material Science)
Victoria Coverstone (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Aeronautical Engineering)