The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) has selected GT for a Phase I SBIR which will explore rapid manufacture of lightweight projectiles, with a contract anticipated to be awarded shortly. SCO’s mission is different from that of the Pentagon’s technology office, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), whose focus is on finding and prototyping the game-changing technologies for future battles, whereas the SCO approach is to understand existing needs and address them in new ways such as the additive manufacturing approach proposed by GT.
Proposal H9.01-8113 Ultra-Lightweight, Ultra-Stable RoboSiC Additively Manufactured Lasercom Telescope is one of 142 NASA SBIR Phase II proposals that have been selected for negotiation of a contract. NASA’s Long-Range Optical Communications subtopic seeks innovative technologies in free-space optical communications for increased data volume returns from space missions in multiple domains: >100 gigabit/s cislunar (Earth or lunar orbit to ground), >10 gigabit/s Earth-sun L1 and L2, >1 gigabit/s per AU-squared deep space, and >100 megabit/s planetary lander to orbiter. Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Glenn Research Center (GRC) and Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) have interest in laser communications telescopes with 30 to 100 cm clear aperture, wavefront error (WFE) less than 62 nm, cumulative WFE and transmission loss not to exceed 3-dB in the far field, advanced thermal and stray light control. Dimensional stability, low scatter, extreme lightweighting, and precision structures are a common theme across the NASA 2017 Physics of the Cosmos and Cosmic Origins Program Annual Technology Reports (PATRs). GT has demonstrated 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM) of silicon carbide (SiC) and tunable SiC nanoceramic composites for optics and opto-mechanical structures. GT’s approach is anticipated to provide a 3-4X reduction in cost for Laser Communications Telescopes.