High-resolution space situational awareness imaging using carbon fiber telescopes

Ryan Swindle, Douglas Hope, Michael Hart, Stuart Jefferies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


High-resolution imagery of satellites from ground-based telescopes plays an important role in space situational awareness (SSA). Current approaches generally rely on large aperture telescopes equipped with adaptive optics. The cost and operational demands of such systems place severe limitations on worldwide surveillance capability. Coverage of the sky is restricted to the regions that happen to be above the small number of geographical locations where facilities exist. However, recent advances in carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) mirrors offer the potential for field-deployable telescopes with an aperture diameter of 1 m or larger for ground-based imaging of space objects. Concave CFRP mirrors are made from convex mandrels, which are challenging to fabricate. Therefore, a major cost driver of a CFRP telescope is the optical quality of the mandrel. Here we show, using both numerical simulations and real data, that a telescope with significant optical aberration can be used for high-resolution imaging if the telescope is equipped with a wavefront sensor (WFS) and the recorded images and WFS data are processed with an appropriate image restoration algorithm. We anticipate that the maturation of the technology to manufacture telescopes at this size from light-weight replicated components, at a cost considerably lower than conventional telescopes, will address a growing demand for SSA data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number042406
JournalJournal of Applied Remote Sensing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • carbon fiber
  • deconvolution
  • deployable
  • lightweight
  • optics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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