LLNL's Monolithic Telescopes are extremely robust and compact imaging systems designed to provide high quality imaging from nano-satellites and UAVs.
Monolithic Telescopes are a novel implementation of a solid catadioptric design form, instantiated in a monolithic block of fused silica.
The compact nature of the monolithic telescope enables smaller imaging systems without compromising performance. Relative to conventional Cassegrain telescopes, monolithic telescopes can be integrated into smaller spacecraft or airborne gimbals at an equivalent level of performance.
Monolithic Telescopes are extremely robust against vibration and temperature swings and can be engineered to negate the need for on-orbit or in-flight focusing. Implemented in a solid block of glass, the monolithic telescope can hold optical tolerances that are impractical in conventional two-mirror Cassegrain telescopes. Tighter tolerances permit more extreme optical surfaces in the design, and this results in achieving very high focal length to physical length ratios while maintaining diffraction-limited performance.
Key applications for this technology are diffraction-limited earth observation from small satellites, space-based deep monitoring of space objects, and long-range horizontal path imaging from UAVs.
Monolithic Telescopes have been demonstrated on a high-altitude aircraft, and from low earth orbit on a 3U CubeSat. Several variants of the telescope have been built and tested including high resolution, wide field-of-view, and shortwave infrared variants implemented in an 8.5 cm aperture size. These telescopes can be integrated onto 3U size nano-satellites. An ultra-high resolution 18cm aperture variant has also been built and tested. This telescope features a 2.3 m focal length yet fits comfortably in a 12U CubeSat.
LLNL has patented Monolithic Telescopes (U.S. Patent 9,720,223; LLNL internal case no. IL-12599) and has patents pending on specific variants.