The primary mirror of the Ariel mission: cryotesting of aluminum mirror samples with protected silver coating
Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large Survey (Ariel) has been adopted as ESA "Cosmic Vision" M4 mission, with launch scheduled for 2029. Ariel is based on a 1 m class telescope optimized for spectroscopy in the waveband between 1.95 and 7.8 μm, operating in cryogenic conditions in the range 40-50 K. Aluminum has been chosen as baseline material for the telescope mirrors substrate, with a metallic coating to enhance reflectivity and protect from oxidation and corrosion. As part of Phase B1, leading to SRR and eventually mission adoption, a protected silver coating with space heritage has been selected and will undergo a qualification process. A fundamental part of this process is assuring the integrity of the coating layer and performance compliance in terms of reflectivity at the telescope operating temperature. To this purpose, a set of flat sample disks have been cut and polished from the same baseline aluminum alloy as the telescope mirror substrates, and the selected protected silver coating has been applied to them by magnetron sputtering. The disks have then been subjected to a series of cryogenic temperature cycles to assess coating performance stability. This study presents the results of visual inspection, reflectivity measurements and atomic force microscopy (AFM) on the sample disks before and after the cryogenic cycles.