In space missions, the current trend is to use a constellation of small spacecrafts that work together, rather than using a single large module that centralizes all tasks. This entails formation flight control and collision avoidance, which in turn requires operators to determine the relative distance and orientation of the spacecrafts in the constellation. One of the solutions considered is based on a laser beam micromanipulator equipped with an integrated feedback mechanism that makes it possible to determine and adjust its angular position as needed.
Canadian Space Agency researchers have developed a design for a laser beam micromanipulator with an integrated feedback mechanism based on detecting the shadow that the micromanipulator projects on sensors integrated beneath its structure. When putting the design into practice, the CSA turned to the recognized expertise of our microfabrication specialists. Our task was to fully fabricate the micromanipulator (including the feedback sensors), package the resulting microdevice, and characterize its performance.
In characterizing the various micromanipulator components, we observed that the device’s static response was even better than the simulations predicted since the voltage required to activate the manipulator was less than expected. The feedback signal from the photonic sensors exhibited the expected theoretical variation as a function of the angle of rotation.
A promising device
The micromanipulator is a monolithic device based entirely on a surface microfabrication process. The micromirror rotates by 4° at an activation voltage as low as 15 V. Feedback signal showed a variation in line with the predictions. Overall, the performance of this first prototype laser beam micromanipulator met most of the requirements for this application.