Abstract

Cameras built for space exploration are required to meet stringent environmental conditions, such as thermal and dynamic loads for both the optics (camera lens) and imaging electronics. On a multitude of spaceborne imaging instruments, optical elements are supported in their mounts via an elastomeric bonding approach using a room temperature vulcanizing silicone as the bonding agent. Employing this integration method, we achieved element-to-element alignment, measured as the total indicated runout, using a high-precision contact probe to be on the order of half a wavelength of He–Ne laser light, or 0.3μm, on the Malin Space Science Systems lenses for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) cameras. This is a higher precision than the current industry state-of-the-art, and it was achieved for the very challenging small diameter lens elements. This paper describes the design philosophy, implementation, and integration method that resulted in achieving this level of precision for interelement alignment. The results are based on actual measurements that were made during the process of building the MSL rover’s science camera lenses, namely Mastcams, the Mars Hand Lens Imager, and the Mars Descent Imager. The optical designs of these cameras lenses are described in detail in [Opt. Eng. 48, 103002 (2009)], while further information on the four science cameras can be found at http://www.msss.com.

© 2011 Optical Society of America

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