50 Meter Fluidic Space Telescope

The Fluidic Telescope (FLUTE) project team, jointly led by NASA and Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, envisions a way to make huge circular self-healing mirrors in-orbit to further the field of astronomy.

Larger telescopes collect more light, and they allow astronomers to peer farther into space and see distant objects in greater detail.

The state-of-the-art 21 foot (6.5 meter) aperture James Webb Space Telescope needed to be folded up origami-style – including the mirror itself ­– to fit inside the rocket for its ride to space. The aperture of an optical space observatory refers to the size of the telescope’s primary mirror, the surface that collects and focuses incoming light.

The aperture the FLUTE researchers are targeting first is approximately 164 feet (50 meters) in diameter – half as long as a football field. The fluidic mirror and lens designs are not limited to that size and could increase to 10 kilometers. the 50 meter mirror space telecope could deploy from one SpaceX Super Heavy Starship launch. FLUTE has already tested parts of their system on the international space station. The next step is a smallsat complete system orbital test.

Conventional technology for making optical components for telescopes is a grind. It involves an iterative process of sanding and polishing solid materials, such as glass or metal, to shape the precise curved surfaces of lenses and mirrors needed. Using current technologies, scaling up space telescopes to apertures larger than approximately 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter does not appear economically viable.

FLUTE’s novel cost-effective technology approach takes advantage of the way fluids naturally behave in microgravity.

1 thought on “50 Meter Fluidic Space Telescope”

  1. Excited for this project. Hopefully next Starship test will go smoothly, next ones will follow quickly and we will see it launching cargo to orbit next year.

    NASA already did most of the basic experiments and testw and soon smallsat test will prove if this concept works in space. So if the answer is yes, we can start building bigger version very soon.

    Design of this telescope seems to be orders of magniture easier and cheaper than optic telescopes.

    I was complaining here some time ago that construction of new mirror takes years and that we need new tech/speed it up. Fluidic telscopes seems to be an answer.

    Now, with this new type of tech, how fast you think it can be constructed?

    50m version?

    1000m version?

    10 000m version?

    Let’s say Musk wants to have his own epic telescope and will launch it using Starship. So launching cost could be less than $1-5M, fluid cost can’t be high, what about other parts?

    Do you think, his engineers can build and send 1000m telescope, which will cost less than $500M?

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