Multi-object spectrometers are extremely useful astronomical instruments that allow simultaneous spectral observations of large numbers of objects. Studies performed with ground-based multi-object spectrometers (MOSs) in the last four decades helped to place unique constraints on cosmology, large scale structure, galaxy evolution, Galactic structure, and contributed to countless other scientific advances. However, terrestrial MOSs use large discrete components for object selection, which, aside from not transferable to space-based applications, are limited in both minimal slit width and minimal time required accommodate a change of the locations of objects of interest in the field of view. There is a pressing need in remotely addressable and fast-re-configurable slit masks, which would allow for a new class of instruments - spacebased MOS. There are Microelectromechanical System (MEMS) - based technologies under development for use in space-based instrumentation, but currently they are still unreliable, even on the ground. A digital micromirror device (DMD) is a highly capable, extremely reliable, and remotely re-configurable spatial light modulator (SLM) that was originally developed by Texas Instruments Incorporated for projection systems. It is a viable and very promising candidate to serve as slit mask for both terrestrial and space-based MOSs.

This work focused on assessing the suitability of DMDs for use as slit masks in space-based astronomical MOSs and developing the necessary calibration procedures and algorithms. Radiation testing to the levels of orbit around the second Lagrangian point (L2) was performed using the accelerated heavy-ion irradiation approach. The DMDs were found to be extremely reliable in such radiation environment, the devices did not experience hard failures and there was no permanent damage. Expected single-event upset (SEU) rate was determined to be about 5.6 micro-mirrors per 24 hours on-orbit for 1-megapixel device. Results of vibration and mechanical shock testing performed according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) General Environmental Verification Standard (GEVS) at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) suggest that commercially available DMDs are mechanically suitable for space-deployment with a very significant safety margin. Series of tests to assess the performance and the behaviour of DMDs in cryogenic temperatures (down to 78 K) were also carried out. There were no failures or malfunctions detected in commercially-available devices. An earlier prototype of a terrestrial DMD-based MOS (Rochester Institute of Technology Multi-Object Spectrometer (RITMOS)) was updated with a newer DMD model, and the performance of the instrument was evaluated. All the experiments performed strongly suggest that DMDs are highly reliable and capable devices that are extremely suitable for use as remotely programmable slit masks in MOS.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Spectrometer--Design and construction--Evaluation; Optoelectronic devices--Design and construction

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Imaging Science (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (COS)


Zoran Ninkov

Advisor/Committee Member

Alan Raisanen

Advisor/Committee Member

Emmett Ientilucci


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes