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Hubble Celebrates Silver Anniversary

Materion Has Long History of Telescope Support
Red Star Image_ NASA

It’s hard to believe but the Hubble Space Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990 and is now celebrating its 25th year in space! Materion is proud to have supported HST since the early 1990s. It is safe to say that almost any Hubble image you see published in the media was taken through a Materion filter. Following is a recap of some of the highlights of our involvement with four Hubble projects.

Example of the images captured by the Hubble Space telescope. Red Supergiant star V838 Monocerotis displaying dust patterns never before seen. (Credit: NASA)

Camera Filters for the WFPC2
Materion’s first Hubble contribution was a set of filters provided for the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2). This instrument replaced WF/PC that was installed at the initial launch of the telescope.  Our customer for the WFPC2 filters was Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).  We produced 48 filters ranging from single band pass filters, both wide and narrow, to 4-band “quad” filters to “ramp” filters that exhibit a spatial variation in wavelength.  They allow a scientist to select any wavelength of interest by re-pointing the telescope and thus imaging an object to a different location on the filter.

At that time, the filters for WFPC2 were of the laminated ‘soft coating’ variety, since it pre-dated our IAD process.  These filters were still performing well when the instrument was replaced during Servicing Mission 4 in May 2009, almost 20 years since their manufacture and after 16 years in space. (There have been five Servicing Missions by space shuttles to upgrade the telescope over the years.) In recognition of our outstanding contributions to the WFPC2 mission, Materion was chosen by NASA JPL to receive the prestigious Group Achievement Award in 1994.                                                    
                                                                                                                                                                                         Installation of WFPC2 during Servicing Mission 1. (NASA )Hubble Installation

At that time, the filters for WFPC2 were of the laminated ‘soft coating’ variety, since it pre-dated our IAD process.  These filters were still performing well when the instrument was replaced during Servicing Mission 4 in May 2009, almost 20 years since their manufacture and after 16 years in space. (There have been five Servicing Missions by space shuttles to upgrade the telescope over the years.) In recognition of our outstanding contributions to the WFPC2 mission, Materion was chosen by NASA JPL to receive the prestigious Group Achievement Award in 1994.
 
Upgrading the WFPC2 to WFC3
As scientists’ appetites increased for even better imaging, Materion began work on filters for a replacement to WFPC2 – the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).  Manufacturing occurred over a period of several years with the final upgraded filters delivered in the 2006 time frame.  WFC 3 was installed on Hubble in May 2009 after removal of the older WFPC2 instrument.  WFC3 is now the premier Hubble imager.  Our customers for WFC3 were both GSFC and JPL.

Hubble Space Telescope

 Hubble Space Telescope Gets Upgrade During Servicing Mission (NASA)

Enhanced Performance with ACS Filters
Around 1998, Materion manufactured a large set of filters for the Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).  These were designed to provide performance improvements, both spectral and optical, over WFPC2. The filters employed our new IAD process without laminations.  The ACS filters were larger - 80 mm diameter - than the earlier 54 mm square WFPC2 filters.  The ACS instrument was installed on Hubble in March 2002 and is still in service. Our customer for the ACS filters was NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). 

Far Ultraviolet Filters for STIS
Materion also provided high performance Far Ultraviolet (FUV) four-band patterned filters for the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) instrument around 1994.  Our customer was the instrument builder Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. (Ball).  These filters were quite unusual in that they required patterning four separate filter zones, plus a cross-shaped blocking coating to separate the four filters, all to fit on small (one inch square) calcium fluoride substrates. It was required that the filters be produced in a clean room and that the coatings be pinhole free. 

STIS is the only non-imaging Hubble instrument Materion supported.  The instrument’s function is to perform spectroscopy of astronomical targets, dispersing UV light in order to chemically analyze the objects Hubble is trained on. The STIS was installed on Hubble in 1997 and is still in operation 18 years after launch. However, it did suffer partial failure in 2004 due to an electrical fault which was repaired on Servicing Mission 4 in 2009.

Astronaut_Story Musgrave

Astronaut Visit
In 1992, Materion’s Westford, MA facility welcomed an honored visitor - astronaut Story Musgrave.  Musgrave was the astronaut who installed WFPC2 (with Materion filters) in Hubble as part of Servicing Mission 1, his fifth space flight.  During his visit, he described his upcoming space walk and planned instrument installation.  Musgrave is a fascinating character who is both a physician and a mathematician, grew up on a dairy farm in Stockbridge, MA, earned seven graduate degrees and racked up over 18,000 airplane flight hours.
                                                                                                                            Astronaut Story Musgrave during a visit to Materion.

Future Space Missions
Additional HST upgrades are no longer possible with the closure of the Shuttle program.  However, Materion continues to be involved with NASA’s major new space telescope missions. We provided the beryllium mirrors for the James Webb Space Telescope that will be launched in the 2018 timeframe as well as supplying filters to two of its four science instruments, NIRCam and NIRISS/FGS. These Infra Red filters operate (and were tested by Materion) at 30 Kelvin (minus 400 degrees F).

The next major NASA space telescope mission is likely to be Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST) with a planned start date around 2017 and tentative launch in the early 2020s. This telescope is a dark energy survey telescope, part of the mission to probe the origin of the universe and help uncover the nature of dark energy by measuring the 14-billion-year history of cosmic expansion. Materion is currently building and testing prototype filters in a risk reduction activity for this mission. 

Materion has a space telescope heritage extending back 25 years and is excited to be supporting future space endeavors with our products and services. For any questions, please contact Tom Mooney, Product Engineering Manager, Thomas.Mooney@Materion.com