Design and characterization of a balloon-borne diffraction-limited submillimeter telescope platform for BLAST-TNG

Nathan P. Lourie, Francisco E. Angilé, Peter C. Ashton, Brian Catanzaro, Mark J. Devlin, Simon Dicker, Joy Didier, Bradley Dober, Laura M. Fissel, Nicholas Galitzki, Samuel Gordon, Jeffrey Klein, Ian Lowe, Philip Mauskopf, Federico Nati, Giles Novak, L. Javier Romualdez, Juan D. Soler, Paul A. Williams

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

9 Scopus citations


The Next Generation Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST-TNG) is a submillimeter mapping experiment planned for a 28 day long-duration balloon (LDB) flight from McMurdo Station, Antarctica during the 2018-2019 season. BLAST-TNG will detect submillimeter polarized interstellar dust emission, tracing magnetic fields in galactic molecular clouds. BLAST-TNG will be the first polarimeter with the sensitivity and resolution to probe the ∼0.1 parsec-scale features that are critical to understanding the origin of structures in the interstellar medium. With three detector arrays operating at 250, 350, and 500 μm (1200, 857, and 600 GHz), BLAST-TNG will obtain diffraction-limited resolution at each waveband of 30, 41, and 59 arcseconds respectively. To achieve the submillimeter resolution necessary for its science goals, the BLAST-TNG telescope features a 2.5 m aperture carbon fiber composite primary mirror, one of the largest mirrors flown on a balloon platform. Successful performance of such a large telescope on a balloon-borne platform requires stiff, lightweight optical components and mounting structures. Through a combination of optical metrology and finite element modeling of thermal and mechanical stresses on both the telescope optics and mounting structures, we expect diffractionlimited resolution at all our wavebands. We expect pointing errors due to deformation of the telescope mount to be negligible. We have developed a detailed thermal model of the sun shielding, gondola, and optical components to optimize our observing strategy and increase the stability of the telescope over the flight. We present preflight characterization of the telescope and its platform.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGround-Based and Airborne Telescopes VII
EditorsHeather K. Marshall, Jason Spyromilio
ISBN (Electronic)9781510619531
StatePublished - 2018
EventGround-Based and Airborne Telescopes VII 2018 - Austin, United States
Duration: Jun 10 2018Jun 15 2018

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


OtherGround-Based and Airborne Telescopes VII 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Carbon fiber telescope
  • Gondola
  • Metrology
  • Scientific ballooning
  • Star formation
  • Submillimeter optics
  • Telescope structures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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