Designing Optical Systems for Spacecraft and Satellites

Optical Systems for Spacecrafts and Satellites

Image Credit: Andrey Armyagov/

Several different kinds of optical sensing and imaging systems are utilized in the present day to trace and analyze the Earth and the universe at large.

Challenges Faced in Designing Optical Systems

The design of optical systems for spacecraft and satellites is difficult because of the challenging conditions that space exerts on systems and components functioning in this remote environment. This includes high vacuum, strong electromagnetic radiation, restrictions on size and weight, zero gravity and significant temperature gradients.

Optical Systems for Spacecrafts and Satellites

Image Credit: Resolve Optics

 The lifetime of the application or how long the optical system is required to function for is a major consideration when designing optics for a space application.

There is greater exposure to electromagnetic radiation the longer that the optical system orbits. It is essential only to employ structural materials and optical components that are resistant to radiation.

Space Lenses from Resolve Optics

The space lenses designed by Resolve Optics all include optical elements made from materials resistant to the effect radiation.

This allows them to cope with doses of radiation up to 100,000,000 rads and extreme temperature ranges with no detriment to performance.

The vacuum of space is one of the most critical things to consider when designing a space ready lens. It is essential to carefully choose materials, that will not outgas. Depending on the size and design of the optical system, it may be necessary to vent large air spaces.

Gravity, or the lack thereof, must also be considered. When optical systems with moving parts are designed for space, the level of freedom must be reduced as components will wobble and move because of the lack of gravity. Performance and precision will be decreased by any undesirable movements.

An optical system, because of the environment of space, may also be subjected to significant temperature gradients resulting in changes to mechanical and optical features, embrittlement, thermal expansion, and stress. It is crucially important to know how structural parts and optical elements will function throughout a wide range of temperatures when designing optical systems for space.


This article has described how designing optics for use in space is highly complex.

For over 20 years, Resolve Optics has collaborated with leading satellite development organizations and international space agencies in North America and Europe to design and provide high-performance optical systems that effectively carry out the desired function.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Resolve Optics Ltd.

For more information on this source, please visit Resolve Optics Ltd.


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