ESA title
Artistic impression of main optics
Enabling & Support

12 meter Class Segmented Optical Communications Antenna

13/02/2018 401 views 1 likes
ESA / Enabling & Support / Space Engineering & Technology / Shaping the Future
 Programme:  TRP Workplan  Achieved TRL:  3
 Reference:  T606-12GS  Closure:  2017
 Contractor(s):  MT Mechatronics (DE), FFH-HHI (DE)


Optical communication for deep space applications has the potential to provide the means to increase data throughput in space to Earth links. Such efforts are critical for the realisation of ESTRACK's future deep space optical communication capability.

One of the main challenges is the design of a large effective aperture /collecting area within a tight budget envelope. While optical communications can benefit from simpler optical performance specifications compared to classical astronomical telescopes, the additional requirement of day and night operation and the associated thermo-mechanical design with metrology and active optics are unique to the application and not known today.


The activity aimed to address the feasibility of a 10-12 meter class single aperture optical telescope for deep space communications as well as to elaborate on an advanced conceptual design.

Mirror Technology and Active Optics
Mirror Technology and Active Optics

Achievements and status

The design of a 12 meter segmented optical communications antenna for day and night operation has been made. Critical areas have been identified, in particular those requiring further developments to increase maturity levels and/or decrease cost.


There are a number of areas which will benefit from the development of the antenna:

  • Detectors
  • Adaptive Optics
  • Narrow band tunable spectral filters
  • Solar rejection filters
  • Low cost segments

Next steps

The activity will be followed by breadboarding of critical items with the goal of in-orbit demonstration of the Deep-space Optical Communications System (DOCS).

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