The versatile CubeSat telescope: Going to large apertures in small spacecraft

Jaren N. Ashcraft, Ewan S. Douglas, Daewook Kim, George A. Smith, Kerri Cahoy, Tom Connors, Kevin Z. Derby, Victor Gasho, Kerry Gonzales, Charlotte E. Guthery, Geon Hee Kim, Corwyn Sauve, Paul Serra

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The design of a CubeSat telescope for academic research purposes must balance complicated optical and structural designs with cost to maximize performance in extreme environments. Increasing the CubeSat size (eg. 6U to 12U) will increase the potential optical performance, but the cost will increase in kind. Recent developments in diamond-turning have increased the accessibility of aspheric aluminum mirrors, enabling a cost-effective regime of well-corrected nanosatellite telescopes. We present an all-aluminum versatile CubeSat telescope (VCT) platform that optimizes performance, cost, and schedule at a relatively large 95 mm aperture and 0.4 degree diffraction limited full field of view stablized by MEMS fine-steering modules. This study features a new design tool that permits easy characterization of performance degradation as a function of spacecraft thermal and structural disturbances. We will present details including the trade between on- and off-axis implementations of the VCT, thermal stability requirements and finite-element analysis, and launch survival considerations. The VCT is suitable for a range of CubeSat borne applications, which provides an affordable platform for astronomy, Earth-imaging, and optical communications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1181904
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - 2021
EventUV/Optical/IR Space Telescopes and Instruments: Innovative Technologies and Concepts X 2021 - San Diego, United States
Duration: Aug 1 2021Aug 5 2021


  • CubeSat
  • Finite element analaysis
  • Optical design
  • Polarization
  • Telescope
  • Thermal
  • Trade study

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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