Potential NASA optical missions such as the Space Interferometer Mission require actuators for precision positioning to accuracies of the order of nanometers. Commercially available multilayer piezoelectric stack actuators are being considered for driving these precision mirror positioning mechanisms. These mechanisms have potential mission operational requirements that exceed 5 years for one mission life. To test the feasibility of using these commercial actuators for these applications and to determine their reliability and the redundancy requirements, a life test study was undertaken. The nominal actuator requirements for the most critical actuators on the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) in terms of number of cycles was estimated from the Modulation Optics Mechanism (MOM) and Pathlength control Optics Mechanism (POM) and these requirements were used to define the study. At a nominal drive frequency of 250 Hz, one mission life is calculated to be 40 billion cycles. In this study, a set of commercial PZT stacks configured in a potential flight actuator configuration (pre-stressed to 18 MPa and bonded in flexures) were tested for up to 100 billion cycles. Each test flexure allowed for two sets of primary and redundant stacks to be mechanically connected in series. The tests were controlled using an automated software control and data acquisition system that set up the test parameters and monitored the waveform of the stack electrical current and voltage. The samples were driven between 0 and 20 V at 2000 Hz to accelerate the life test and mimic the voltage amplitude that is expected to be applied to the stacks during operation. During the life test, 10 primary stacks were driven and 10 redundant stacks, mechanically in series with the driven stacks, were open-circuited. The stroke determined from a strain gauge, the temperature and humidity in the chamber, and the temperature of each individual stack were recorded. Other properties of the stacks, including the displacement from a capacitance gap sensor and impedance spectra were measured at specific intervals. The average degradation in the stroke over the life test was found to be small (<3%) for the primary stacks and <4% for the redundant stacks. It was noted that about half of the stroke reduction occurred within the first 10 billion cycles. At the end of the life test, it was found that the actuator could recover about half of the lost stroke by applying a dc voltage of 100 V at room temperature. The data up to 100 billion cycles for these tests and the analysis of the experimental results are presented in this paper.
© 2011 IEEE