Figure 1: Researchers holding mirrors made of carbon nanotubes in an epoxy resin
The CubeSat design has been faced number of iterations in last few years while mapping ice over moon or being host of mesh communications. Moving a step ahead from this, the NASA researchers are now planning to employ small satellites in form of testing bed for better designs of telescopic mirrors that are formed with carbon nanotubes. When carbon nanotubes are implanted in epoxy resin, the mirrors are able to maintain the ideal properties of submicron-sized particles. Carbon nanotubes are reckoned for their exceptional strength and several other unique electrical properties along with being the most efficient heat conductors. The president of Lightweight Telescopes and contractor of Goddard Space Flight Center, "No one has been able to make a mirror using a carbon nanotube resin. This is a unique technology currently available only at Goddard. The technology is too new to fly in space one first must go through the various levels of technological advancement. But this is what my Goddard colleagues John Kolasinski, Ted Kostiuk, and TIlak Hewagama are trying to accomplish through the CubeSat program." His company is working with the NASA team for creation of a CubeSat-compatible telescope.
The new telescope embedded with this mirror will be a smaller and lighter one. It will also be less powerful as compared to other land or space based telescopes. But the most noteworthy thing is, it will become base for much larger applications. The team has used reusable mold (mandrel set) as per a old balanced prescription to make this mirror. It can further be used in creation of several other identical mirrors. These can always be embedded in creation of huge, several folded telescope mirrors such as the James Webb Space Telescope that is a 21-foot prime mirror. The method of production eliminates need for any kind of polishing bringing down the costs incurred in ensuring the smoothness and shape of mirror. Beyond these future oriented application of carbon nanotubes are the better abilities of "smart optics" of carbon nanotubes.