Reaching for the Stars

Jena Developments in Space

Photo: Optical design of the thermal IR spectrometer (Fraunhofer IOF)

Space, the final frontier. From the very beginning of astronomy, optics have always been deeply connected to space exploration. By combining different lenses, the first astronomers like Kepler and Galilei were able to manufacture telescopes for the observation of celestial bodies. Their findings then led to profound changes of our world view.

Today, complex optical systems offer multiple possibilities for earth observation via satellites, the exploration of planets and space. For these tasks, satellites require increasingly more powerful optical measuring and imaging devices. They often consist of multiple aspherically formed mirror elements that image the incident light as desired only through their precise interaction.

Modern and powerful mirror optics for imaging, spectroscopy and beamforming are based on complex optical surfaces. In the field of aerospace, institutes and companies in Jena investigate the design, the manufacturing including the coating and the mounting of modern telescope and spectrometer optics with on-axis and off-axis aspheres, freeform surfaces and structured surfaces (gratings).

Optical components made by Fraunhofer IOF are part of many space missions and telescopes for earth observation, for example the RapidEye satellites, the Large Binocular Telescope, the GAIA satellite, the James Webb Space Telescope or the BepiColombo Mission to Mercury starting in 2016.

For more information about Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF