Approaches to lowering the cost of large space telescopes

Ewan S. Douglas, Greg Aldering, Greg W. Allan, Ramya Anche, Roger Angel, Cameron C. Ard, Supriya Chakrabarti, Laird M. Close, Kevin Derby, Jerry Edelstein, John Ford, Jessica Gersh-Range, Sebastiaan Y. Haffert, Patrick J. Ingraham, Hyukmo Kang, Douglas M. Kelly, Daewook Kim, Michael Lesser, Jarron M. Leisenring, Yu Chia LinJared R. Males, Buddy Martin, Bianca Alondra Payan, P. M. Sai Krishanth, David Rubin, Sanford Selznick, Kyle Van Gorkom, Buell T. Jannuzi, Saul Perlmutter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


New development approaches, including launch vehicles and advances in sensors, computing, and software, have lowered the cost of entry into space, and have enabled a revolution in low-cost, high-risk Small Satellite (SmallSat) missions. To bring about a similar transformation in larger space telescopes, it is necessary to reconsider the full paradigm of space observatories. Here we will review the history of space telescope development and cost drivers, and describe an example conceptual design for a low cost 6.5 m optical telescope to enable new science when operated in space at room temperature. It uses a monolithic primary mirror of borosilicate glass, drawing on lessons and tools from decades of experience with ground-based observatories and instruments, as well as flagship space missions. It takes advantage, as do large launch vehicles, of increased computing power and space-worthy commercial electronics in low-cost active predictive control systems to maintain stability. We will describe an approach that incorporates science and trade study results that address driving requirements such as integration and testing costs, reliability, spacecraft jitter, and wavefront stability in this new risk-tolerant “LargeSat” context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAstronomical Optics
Subtitle of host publicationDesign, Manufacture, and Test of Space and Ground Systems IV
EditorsTony B. Hull, Daewook Kim, Pascal Hallibert
ISBN (Electronic)9781510665682
StatePublished - 2023
EventAstronomical Optics: Design, Manufacture, and Test of Space and Ground Systems IV 2023 - San Diego, United States
Duration: Aug 21 2023Aug 24 2023

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering


ConferenceAstronomical Optics: Design, Manufacture, and Test of Space and Ground Systems IV 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego


  • CubeSats
  • LargeSats
  • Space telescopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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