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Tucson firm's mirrors to be tested at space station

Post Time:Nov 20,2009Classify:Company NewsView:370

When the space shuttle Atlantis took off from the Kennedy Space Center on Monday, carrying supplies to the International Space Station, it also brought with it the labor of about 19 years of work for one Tucson company.

Composite Mirror Applications Inc., 1638 S. Research Loop, sent three 2-inch diameter, carbon-fiber composite mirrors to the International Space Station so they can be tested by NASA and the Department of Defense for potential use in downward-looking spy satellites, said Bob Romeo, the company's president.

The mirrors will be exposed to the space environment in hopes that they can be used as a less-expensive, lighter and sturdier alternative to glass, silicon carbide and metal mirrors, Romeo said.

"They are testing our technology and looking at it for replacing glass as a mirror substrate," he said. "Our goal is you won't (have to) take the time and expense to get heavy glass — fragile glass — up in space. It will be made out of composite."

The mirrors are scheduled to be installed on a tray outside the space station on Tuesday, Romeo said. They will be part of the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) that continually tests new products' viability for use in space.

There will be 700 different material samples placed in two trays outside of the space station as part of the MISSE program, according to the NASA mission summary.
"It took 60 years for glass (mirrors) to take over for metal (mirrors) and everybody used to make telescope mirrors out of metal," he said. "Now we're saying, let's make them out of carbon fiber composite because it is lighter, cheaper, faster, better."

This launch is an important moment for the seven-employee company, founded in 1991, Romeo said.

"Now, the confidence in this material is high enough for the military to use it and for NASA to begin using and testing it, so it is really a big step for us because when we first started, they wouldn't have thought about using this material," he said.

Composite Mirror Applications is also scheduled — in July of next year — to send up a 50-inch diameter, cone-shaped mirror as part of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment that will be mounted on top of the space station. This experiment will collect cosmic rays and search for different types of matter, Romeo said. A third mirror sample will be sent up in August of next year to replace this current sample as part of the MISSE experiment.

Source: www.azstarnet.comAuthor: shangyi

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