Polarization modulators based on liquid crystals variable retarders. This technology has been developed within the framework of the Solar Orbiter mission led by ESA in collaboration with NASA.
These devices are currently a space qualified product, with three units successfully in operation aboard the Solar Orbiter probe on two of its instruments (SO/PHI and METIS). Therefore, they have the highest technology maturity level, TRL9 (Technology Readiness Level).
WHERE ARE THEY IN OPERATION?
The Solar Orbiter mission is currently taking scientific measurements, raising the Technology Readiness Level to TRL9. It has also been implemented in the TuMag (Tunable Magnetograph, 2022) instrument on the Sunrise III mission.
The Liquid Crystal Variable Retarders technology has also been selected for the Polarization Rotators of the MAM (Miniature Absolute Magnetometer) sensor head as part of the NanoMagSat proposal of ESA’s SCOUT Program. Additionally, an identical unit to the PHI polarization modulators for Solar Orbiter will be used for the Photospheric Magnetic Field Imager (PMI) onboard Vigil, the first mission of ESA’s Space Safety Program.