Important Considerations When Designing Optical Systems for Space Projects

Scientists currently use various optical imaging and sensing systems to observe and measure the Earth and the universe. Designing optical systems for satellites and spacecraft, however, is challenging since the components and systems must face the harsh conditions of space.

These include:

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

Important Considerations When Designing Optical Systems for Space Projects

Image Credit: Resolve Optics Ltd.

When designing an application for space, the application's life or how long the optical system is required to work is a critical consideration. The longer the optical system is in orbit, the greater the exposure to electromagnetic radiation, necessitating the use of optical components and structural materials that are radiation resistant.

All optical elements within Resolve Optics' space lenses use cerium oxide doped glass or synthetic silica. These materials allow the lenses to withstand radiation doses up to 100,000,000 rad and temperatures of up to 55 °C without discoloration or performance degradation.

The high vacuum environment is the next challenge in designing a spaceborne optical system. Selecting optical elements, structural materials, and optical adhesives that do not release moisture or outgas is vital. Outgassing in an optical system is potentially catastrophic as it could coat the optics and destroy the image quality.

Choosing reliable optical coatings is also essential, as coatings that evaporate in a vacuum could result in the failure of moving parts.

Gravity, or the lack of it, must also be considered. When designing optical systems with moving parts in space, the movement must be limited since the parts will move more due to the lack of gravity. Any unwanted movement will result in reduced performance and precision.

Objects are also subject to extreme temperature gradients in space, which may cause the optical and mechanical properties to change due to stress, embrittlement, and thermal expansion. Therefore, understanding how optical elements and structural parts perform across a wide temperature range is essential in the design of optical space systems.

Designing optics for use in space is not simple. For over twenty years, Resolve Optics Ltd. has worked with the leading international space agencies and satellite development companies in North America and Europe to develop and deliver high-performance and reliable optical systems.

Resolve Optics Ltd. (Chesham, UK) is an internationally respected developer and supplier of application-optimized lenses and optical designs for various high technology businesses. Resolve supplies custom lenses and optical systems to customers in multiple markets but is internationally renowned for its expertise and knowledge of 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 additional questions to gain a complete understanding of the project and overall business goals.

After the project design specifications are agreed upon, the client and Resolve become OEM partners with a common goal to create 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 specified quality and target price. The company's ultimate goal 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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