Reliability of Liquid Crystals in Space Photonics
Preview: Eva Otón, Javier Pérez, Demetrio López,
Xabier Quintana, José M. Otón, and Morten A. Geday CEMDATIC, ETSI Telecomunicación, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain
Alter Technology, Spain
Abstract: Passive liquid crystal (LC) devices are becoming an interesting alternative for the manufacturing of photonic devices in spatial applications. These devices feature a number of advantages in this environment, the lack of movable parts, and of exposed electronics being among the most outstanding ones. Nevertheless, the LC material itself must demonstrate its endurance under the harsh conditions of space missions, including launch and, perhaps, landing. In this paper, we present the environmental testing of an LC device for space applications. A number of LC based beam steering devices were manufactured, characterized, and tested in a series of destructive and nondestructive tests defined by the European Space Agency (ESA). The purpose was to evaluate the behavior and possible degradation of the LC response in simulated space environments.
Device fabrication and testing was done within an ESA-funded project, whose purpose was the design, manufacturing, and characterization of adaptive optical elements, as well as the execution of qualification tests on the devices in space-simulated conditions.