Episode: Episode 34: The Orbital Optician
Pub date: 2020-10-16
In this episode of the Voices from DARPA podcast, Stacie Williams, a program manager since 2019 in the agency’s Tactical Technology Office, reveals how a lifelong love of optical and photonic phenomena, beginning with fireflies during her childhood, is now unfolding in her stewardship of ambitious light-and-optics-centric programs at DARPA. One of these, the Deformable Mirror (DeMi) program, recently reached a milestone with the placement from the International Space Station of a dime-sized deformable mirror on a loaf-sized CubeSat platform. The goal of DeMi is to deliver cheaper, lighter, smaller telescope mirrors—in the form of a microelectromechanical system (MEMS)—that could open unprecedented options for space-based ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) technology that, in Stacie’s words, “helps us understand what’s going on with a space eyeview.” In another optics-tech effort under Stacie’s wing, researchers are learning how to design so-called metamaterials—with engineered microstructures that manipulate electromagnetic wavelengths—that also could greatly simplify, lighten, and cheapen far more massive, complex, and expensive conventional telescopes. In the podcast, Stacie also recounts her work beyond technology as a champion of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education for economically disadvantaged communities.
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