DOD’s Largest Telescope Gets Mirror Coating for Space Domain Awareness Missions

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, NM (AFRL) – According to a statement from Kirtland Air Force Base, the Advanced Electro-Optical System at the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site, or AEOS, the Department of Defense’s largest telescope, has received a mirror coating.

DOD’s largest telescope and crew. (Courtesy of Kirtland Air Force Base)

“Keeping the main mirror of the AEOS telescope in top condition is paramount to the site’s SDA mission,” said Lt. Col. Phillip Wagenbach, who is both squadron commander and research mission branch chief. and development of the AFRL Directed Energy Directorate.

To validate the coating process, the Maui team sent the results to private industry coating experts in Albuquerque, New Mexico. and Tucson, Arizona.

The telescope itself is about 3.6 meters or 11.9 feet. It sits atop the 10,023-foot Haleakala volcano and is part of a series of telescopes called the Maui Space Surveillance System, which the US Space Force uses for Space Domain Awareness, or SDA, recognizing space as a priority area for advancing national security.

“Periodic coating of the AEOS main mirror ensures the telescope is ready to support the warfighter’s SDA mission. There’s never really a good time to decommission the telescope, but it’s best to plan for recovery as a periodic maintenance effort rather than having to shut down the telescope due to catastrophic mission degradation,” Wagenbach said.

However, the covering required several tries, the statement said, because insects would disrupt the process.

According to the site’s technical director, Scott Hunt, the recovery should take place every four to six years. The last recovery dates from 2008.