Description and Status
Figure 1 shows the ideal ultraviolet modulation transfer function
(MTF) of a 30 cm telescope at Lyman-alpha wavelength 121.5 nm. The VAULT
0.33 arcsecond resolution is close to the Lyman-alpha Rayleigh diffraction
limit (~0.1 arcsecond). The principal components of VAULT are shown in
Figure 2. The instrument and in-flight technical performance are described
in Korendyke et al. (2001).
VAULT uses an excellent optical quality (wavelength/16 rms at 121.5 nm),
30 cm diameter telescope followed by a zero dispersion spectroheliograph
(Bartoe and Brueckner 1978) to obtain 0.33 arcsecond spatial resolution
UV images. The solar radiation passing through the field stop is collimated
and dispersed by G1, reflected by a single folding mirror and recombined
by G2. The G1 and G2 grating configuration was selected to obtain a UV
solar image with minimal geometric blur (<5 microns, 0.07 arcsecond,
predicted by a ray trace), moderate bandpass (15.0 nm at Lyman-alpha)
and high efficiency (~13%). The solar image is projected onto a lumogen
coated, 2048x3072, 9 micron pixel KAF-6301 Kodak CCD. The CCD UV quantum
efficiency (>10%), linearity and dynamic range are substantially improved
over the 101 film used in NRL's High
Resolution Telescope and Spectrograph (HRTS) flights. The throughput
allows short exposure times (1 second) even with a plate scale of 72 microns/arcsecond.
Figure 1. VAULT MTF. Diffraction-limited sinusoidal MTF plotted for a 30 cm telescope
with 25% obscuration at wavelengths 546.1 nm and 121.5 nm.
Click Here to View
a Detailed Image or
Click Here to View an Animation
Figure 2. VAULT Instrument Optical/Mechanical Layout
VAULT uses an f/24.6, 30 cm diameter, 25% obscuration Cassegrain telescope. The
optical parameters were chosen to allow reuse of the HRTS Gregorian graphite tube
and structure. While prior HRTS Cassegrain and Gregorian telescopes had f/3 primary
mirrors with a secondary mirror magnification of 5, VAULT uses an f/4.92 primary
with a magnification of 5. The thermal loading of the Zerodur primary and secondary
is similar to the HRTS Cassegrain. During the five minutes of solar observations,
no image quality degradation was observed.
The VAULT telescope produces a solar image with a plate scale of 72 microns/arcsecond
compared to the HRTS value of 22 microns/arcsecond. Coma and astigmatism are <0.01
arcsecond over the instrument field of view. The slower primary mirror reduces the
sensitivity of the telescope to secondary decenter, focus, and tilt. The telescope
tube and structure have been flown on Spacelab 2 as well as HRTS 8 and 9. The amount
of tilt and decenter has been measured to be <1 arcminute and <50 microns respectively,
even under relatively severe stress conditions. The amount of blur induced by this
secondary tilt and decenter is <0.05 arcsecond. The combined telescope system
optical/mechanical performance allows 0.33 arcsecond spatial resolution to be achieved.
The payload makes extensive use of existing HRTS hardware and mechanical
design heritage. The overall mechanical design of VAULT is identical to
HRTS. The latter has benefited from several experience-based modifications
over the years, particularly in the telescope design area, and meets the
VAULT performance objectives. The telescope tube and focal plane deck
structure are cantilevered from a central bulkhead. The primary mirror
is potted in a central hub, to avoid stressing the optic. Curing procedures,
which effectively avoid molecular contamination, have been developed.
The hub is mounted directly to the central bulkhead. The focal plane deck
structure is launch locked to the rocket skin using a retractable pin
mechanism. The front and aft rocket skins are bolted to the central bulkhead.
A vacuum compatible, commandable aperture door, provided by NASA's Wallops
Flight Facility (WFF), is used to expose the telescope to the Sun
and to protect it from damage during reentry. A pair of specially designed
breather filters on the telescope door slowly bleeds the instrument to
ambient pressure while the payload is descending to the desert floor.
VAULT reuses the front and aft HRTS skins from HRTS 8 and 9, but a new
vacuum bulkhead and electronics skin section were fabricated for VAULT.
The superb, demonstrated performance of the Mark-7 SPARCS system allows VAULT and
other high-resolution solar payloads to be launched without image motion compensation
systems. The new system incorporates a fiber-optic communication line, which relays
the sensor output information to the ACS system. The new electronics includes a microprocessor
for digital control of the SPARCS gas jets. HRTS 10 was the first scientific flight
of the new Mark-7 digital SPARCS system. It has subsequently flown several times.
The performance of the SPARCS system during the HRTS 10 and VAULT 1 flights was superb.
The drift and jitter, generally associated with electrical pickup on the signal lines
in the long cable between the SPARCS skin section and the analog sensor, were entirely
eliminated. A stability of the payload of 0.1 arcsecond was obtained. During VAULT
2, a drift rate of 0.3 arcsecond/second was observed between the digital sensor axis
and the telescope axis. The source of this error was traced to the mounting of the
spectroheliograph structure to the rocket skin. A new design will be implemented
and should reduce the drift by a factor of 3 for VAULT 3.
Camera and Flight Computer Description
A block diagram of the VAULT electronics bulkhead is shown in Figure 3. A PC-104
computer sequences the mechanisms, the CCD camera, and the telemetry interface. A
number of auxiliary boards provide power conversion, internal/external power relays,
and analog conditioning and mechanism driver functions. The computer is comprised
of Commercially available Off The Shelf (COTS) PC-104 format boards; these boards
are repackaged at NRL to withstand the sounding rocket environment. The small footprint
(90x90 mm), low power dissipation, and surface mount PC-104 format boards are technically
well suited to the sounding rocket application; the boards are also readily available
and reasonably priced. The computers are used routinely in embedded systems; the
DOS and BIOS of these computers are specially modified to prevent fatal operating
The VAULT camera electronics and camera head are a modified version of the COTS Apogee
AP-9 thermoelectrically cooled camera. The VAULT camera incorporates a Kodak 6301e,
class-2 CCD detector. The CCD is lumogen-coated to obtain ultraviolet sensitivity.
The measured performance of the AP-9 VAULT camera is given in Table 1. Existing software
drivers for the commercial camera were used as the building blocks to construct the
VAULT flight and laboratory software.
Here to View a Detailed Image
Figure 3. VAULT electronics block diagram.
Table 1. CCD Camera Performance
||Kodak KAF6301e, 2048x3072, lumogen coated, 9 micron pixels
||Minimal with cooling to -10 degrees C
||40 e-, standard deviation
||14 bits, 0.5 MHz readout, 5 e-/DN