Important Things to Consider When Designing Optical Systems for Space Applications

Due to the effect of space's extreme conditions on components and systems working in its remote environment, it is difficult to develop optical systems for satellites and spacecraft.

Some of the things that must be considered when designing optical systems for space projects include:

  • High vacuum
  • Strong electromagnetic radiation
  • Large temperature gradients
  • Zero gravity
  • Size and weight

Important Things to Consider When Optical Systems are Designed

Image Credit: Resolve Optics Ltd.

When developing optical systems for space applications, one of the most important aspects is the application’s life cycle, or how long the optical system must function. The longer the optical system remains in orbit, the more exposed it is to electromagnetic radiation, highlighting the importance of using radiation-resistant optical components and structural materials.

All optical elements used in Resolve Optics' space lens designs are made of cerium oxide doped glass or synthetic silica, allowing them to endure radiation doses of up to 100,000,000 rad and temperatures of up to 55 °C without discoloration or performance deterioration.

The high vacuum environment is the next consideration in developing space-borne optical systems. It is essential to select optical elements, adhesives, and structural materials that do not release moisture or outgas.

Outgassing in an optical system can be devastating due to its potential to coat the optics and destroy image quality. Similarly, selecting reliable optical coatings is also critical, as coatings that evaporate in a vacuum may lead to the failure of moving parts.

Gravity, or its absence, must also be considered. When creating optical systems with moving parts in space, their degree of freedom must be minimized since the parts will move more due to the absence of gravity. Any unwanted movement will lead to reduced precision and performance.

Space's environment may expose the optical system to high-temperature gradients, causing changes in optical and mechanical properties, stress, embrittlement, and thermal expansion. Therefore, understanding how optical elements and structural parts operate across a wide range of temperatures is essential when designing optical systems for space.

Creating optics for use in space is a challenging task. Over the last two decades, Resolve Optics has partnered with the world’s premier international space agencies and satellite development firms in North America and Europe to create and deliver high-performance optical systems that reliably execute the function they were designed for.

Resolve Optics Ltd. (Chesham, UK) is an internationally renowned supplier and developer of application-optimized lenses and optical designs for various high technology businesses. Resolve supplies custom lenses and optical systems to clients in multiple markets but is internationally recognized for its knowledge and expertise in the aerospace, space, and nuclear industries.

After receiving a design inquiry, Resolve's talented optomechanical design engineers begin an in-depth review of the custom optics' target application and performance specifications. The team asks further questions to ensure that they fully understand the project and the overall goals of the client in question.

After the project design specifications are agreed upon, the customer and Resolve become OEM partners with a common goal of creating a state-of-the-art optical solution tailored to the client's exact needs.

Resolve prides itself on translating each customer's needs into an optimized optical design, running projects successfully, and efficiently manufacturing production quantities of lenses and optical products to the desired quality and target price. The company's aim is to deliver optimized custom lenses and optical systems that fulfill clients' needs and increase their competitive edge and profitability.

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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