TNO is a world-class leader in ultra-precision opto-mechatronics. We enable cutting edge science with our technology development programs in the area of Astronomy. These include nanometer-precision support structures, actuators, laser launch telescopes and deformable mirrors. When technology must be mature, precise and reliable, our organization has a 100% success rate in space and scientific instrumentation.
TNO technologies for astronomy
When technology must be mature, precise and reliable, our organization has a 100% success rate in space and scientific instrumentation. An effective telescope system must have the highest precision components possible. From a system perspective this includes key instruments to maintain, measure and correct the wavefront. Segmented mirrors must be co-phased to sub-lambda scale accuracy. Even before the first deformable mirror, the primary and secondary mirrors must maintain near-perfect surface form to preserve the quality of the incoming light, and maintain the diffraction limit. Beyond excellent component design and production, this includes calibration and actuation to counter natural forces including gravity vector (changing telescope orientation), wind loading, thermal gradients and ground movement. Of course, adaptive optics is more than just deformable mirrors. Other key components, such as wavefront sensors, laser guide stars and optimized real-time control systems are key to quality scientific data from large telescopes.
Decades of heritage with 100% reliability
Since 1964 TNO has designed, built and calibrated a growing list of mainly optical instruments and modules. Starting with the very first scientific instrument built for ESA, TNO has a proven track record in space instruments and components spanning half a century. TNO has consistently delivered breakthrough technology and components, ranging from spectrometers for Earth observation and planetary exploration to high-tech, mission-critical space components.
Astronomy applications currently running include the laser launch telescopes, delay lines and star separators for the VLTi, the world's largest optical interferrometric telescope sytem. Recently, with its partners VDL and NOVA, TNO successfully completed the design for the Primary Mirror (M1) support structure for ESO's Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). The development, from idea to a fully tested system, took place from 2005-2018. The design met the demanding 25-30 nm surface form correction in all gravitational vectors. The 39-meter primary mirror is made of 798 1.4-meter segments, with 133 different mirror shapes, for which the single TNO design can be adjusted to compensate. In collaboration with TNO, VDL was recently awarded the contract to build the full series of M1 support structures.
TNO works in compliance with international quality and confidentiality regulations. TNO helps to improve the quality of life on Earth and stimulates the search for signs of life beyond our planet, with the following technology development areas:
- Mirror Support Structure Design (EELT-M1, M2/M3)
- Mirror Support Structure Position Actuators (PACT)
- Segmented Mirror Cophasing Metrology (OCT)
- Laser Guide Star Launch Telescopes (VLT, ELT)
- Deformable Mirrors (ESA, Laser Communications)
- Opto-Mechatronics (Multidisciplinary Expertise)
- Optimized Controls and Precision Instruments (Spectrometers, Star Separators)
We look forward to working together with you to build the highest quality scientific instrumentation.
TNO has a long history of working in Astronomy and related space and scientific instrumentation. TNO combines four areas of expertise to reach cutting-edge levels of accuracy and control in ultra-precision opto-mechatronics: Optics (optical design and engineering), Mechatronics (mechanical design, mechanisms and controls to full optical systems), Space Systems Engineering (engineering, managing and testing the finest details to ensure performance in the most challenging environments) and Optical Manufacturing (nanometer precision of complex optics, coatings, freeforms and aspheres).
TNO space and scientific instrumentation
With over 50 years of space heritage, we develop one-off and prototype instrumentation for Earth observation, space-borne science missions, terrestrial astronomy and big science solutions, extended with our recent development for high-bandwidth laser satellite communication.
SmallCAT laser communication system delivered for integration to Norwegian NORSAT-TD Spacecraft
The SmallCAT uses new optical communication technology that uses satellites to send information to Earth. This happens via invisible light signals and enables much faster data transfers than using the radio frequencies currently employed for communication everywhere.
Consortium led by TNO successfully transmits data via laser communication between optical terminals over 10 km ground-to-ground link
Successful field test of 10 km optical laser communication link Laser satellite communication uses satellites that send information to earth in the form of invisible light signals.
We develop world-class optomechatronic systems for applications in space, big science, and the semiconductor industry. Discover how.
Space systems engineering
In collaboration with the Dutch government, institutes and Universities, we work on space & systems engineering.
TNO is awarded conceptual design of the Gemini North Telescope’s Adaptive Optics Bench
The Gemini North Observatory is one of the largest and most advanced optical and infrared telescopes in the world. It is located on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, one of the world’s premier astronomy locations. The Gemini North telescope has a twin telescope (Gemini South in Chile) leading to the name ’Gemini’ (twins). Both telescopes have of an 8.1-meter primary-mirror. The twin Gemini telescopes provide almost complete coverage of both the northern and southern skies. The telescope saw first light in 1999 and went into science operations in the year 2000.