A new interdisciplinary SmallSat initiative at the University of Arizona includes the construction of integration and test facilities as well as a CubeSat ground station. UA offers a world-class research environment in ground and space-based astrophysics with strong interdisciplinary programs across the Departments of Astronomy, Optical Sciences, Planetary Sciences, Physics, and the UA Data Science Institute. Steward Observatory provides direct access to various world-class facilities for ground-based radio and optical observing. Among these are the Large Binocular Telescope and 6.5m aperture telescopes located in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

The Space Coronagraph Optical Bench (SCoOB)

As part of efforts to advance exoplanet imaging technologies we operate a vacuum-compatible, high-contrast testbed. Our testbed is currently configured for visible wavelengths and featuring a 952 actuator deformable mirror.
Design and Assembly paper, Ashcraft et al 2022 (Proceedings of SPIE).

SCoOB Assembled in our laboratory’s clean tent from Ashcraft et al 2022

Prototyping and 3D printing

UA students should feel free to contact us if they have space or astronomy related components they would like to prototype. Available equipment includes: a Dremel LC40 laser cutter and 3D printers, a Dremel 3D40, and a Markforged Onyx Pro printer that allow rapid prototyping.

Optical Metrology and Testing

Our lab’s 4D PhaseCam 6000 interferometer allows vibration insensitive metrology of optical systems such as space telescope assemblies as well as testing of individual optical components on nanometer scales.

Thermal Vacuum Testing

Our lab facilities at Steward Observatory include a vibration isolated Thermal Vacuum Test chamber (manufactured by Rydberg Vacuum Sciences) for testing sensitive payloads within a high/ultrahigh vacuum.

  • The chamber interior is 1.2m in diameter and 2.2m in length. The usable vertical dimension with the vibration isolating optical bench installed is less than 0.5m.
  • The vacuum’s capability is as low as 1e-8 via turbomolecular pump (1e-8 Torr with LN2 cold plate).
  • The design temperature range spans from -150 C to 150 C Maximum with the temp ramp rate: +/- 2 C/min.
  • LN2: Chamber cooling is provided via LN2.

Exterior of thermal vacuum chamber

Ground-based Astronomical Observatories

Steward Observatory is a partner and home to a wide range of world-class observatories, for details see our observatories page.