Abstract

The three retroreflector arrays put on the Moon 40 years ago by the Apollo astronauts and the French-built arrays on the Soviet Lunokhod rovers continue to be useful targets, and have provided the most stringent tests of the Strong Equivalence Principle and the time variation of Newton’s gravitational constant, as well as valuable insight into the Moon’s interior. However, the precision of the ranging measurements are now being limited by the physical size of the arrays and a new generation of retroreflectors is required to make significant advances over current capabilities. Large single-cube retroreflectors represent the most promising approach to overcoming current limitations, and hollow retroreflectors in particular have the potential to maintain their good optical performance over the nearly 300 K temperature swing that occurs during the lunar cycle. Typically, epoxies are used for aligning and bonding hollow retroreflectors, but their thermal stability will predominantly be limited by the difference of the coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) between the epoxy and the glass. A relatively new bonding method known as hydroxide catalysis bonding (HCB) has been used to adhere complex optical components for space-based missions. HCB has an extremely thin bond, a low CTE, and a high breaking strength that makes it an ideal candidate for bonding hollow retroreflectors for lunar laser ranging (LLR). In this work, we present results of a feasibility study of bonded Pyrex and fused silica hollow retroreflectors using both epoxy and HCB methods, including the results of thermally cycling the hollow retroreflectors from 295 to 185 K. Finally, we discuss the potential for using these retroreflectors for future LLR.

© 2013 Optical Society of America

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