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An experimental study is made on the effectiveness of simple cooperative controls for the optical elements of a laboratory interferometer in interference fringe acquisition. The laboratory setup simulates a space interferometer formed by three spacecraft in a triangular formation. Each interferometer element (two collectors and one combiner) is magnetically levitated and free to rotate about a fixed vertical axis. Feedback-controlled disturbance isolation systems are introduced to isolate the optical elements from the collector and combiner motions induced by external disturbances. Fine optical alignment is achieved by cooperative controls for the collectors driven by sensor data communicated between the collector and combiner via onboard radio transceivers. The main accomplishment of this study is the demonstration that quasi-stationary interference fringes can be captured using our magnetically levitated interferometer with simple cooperative optical-alignment controls. The capture time duration is on the order of half a second.
Date of Publication: July 2005