Dr Keith Seffen, of the Advanced Structures Group here in the Department of Engineering, and Dr Matthew Santer, formerly of the Department and now at the Department of Aeronautics at Imperial College, have won a Royal Aeronautical Society Silver Award for their paper: 'Optical space telescope structures: The state of the art and future directions'.
Space telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, are important observational structures. In orbit, they can observe the cosmos without atmospheric distortion and with little background illumination. The larger the telescope, the better the image: however, practical structures are limited by the available size of rocket launch fairings, resulting in a range of novel solutions. In their paper, Drs Seffen and Santer undertake a review of the current state-of-the-art technology for the design of space telescopes. They consider the relative merits of three types of telescope architecture: monolithic structures, which have a single, highly-polished mirrored surface; deployable structures, which take shape by the unfolding of hinged, rigid pieces; and thin, continuous membranes known as "Gossamer" structures, which are pre-tensioned in orbit, to give a precise reflective surface. Gossamer structures are, by far, the lightest and best-packaged, and thus, can be the largest and are most promising: but because of this lightness, their shape is more prone to dynamic and thermal disturbances in orbit. Simple performance metrics are developed in the paper to take account of the effect of these disturbances, in order to enable designers to select appropriate materials and control mechanisms for a better overall performance.
The Royal Aeronautical Society recognises the achievements, innovation and excellence of both individuals and multiple authors. The Written Paper Prizes are awarded for the best papers published in The Aeronautical Journal by the Society during the previous calendar year. The awards are of Gold, Silver and Bronze status. These awards are not the subject of nominations but are selected by the RAeS Medals and Awards Committee and supported by the Editorial Board of The Aeronautical Journal.