KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFRL) – According to a Kirtland Airforce Base release, the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing site’s Advanced Electro-Optical System, or AEOS, the Department of Defense’s largest telescope, received a mirror recoat.
“Keeping the AEOS telescope’s primary mirror in quality condition is paramount to the site’s SDA mission,” said Lt. Col. Phillip Wagenbach, who is both the squadron commander and branch chief of the AFRL Directed Energy Directorate’s research and development mission.
To validate the recoating process, the Maui team sent results to private industry coating experts in Albuquerque, New Mexico. and Tucson, Arizona.
The telescope itself measures to around 3.6 meters or 11.9 feet. It is located on the summit of the 10,023-foot volcano Haleakala and is part of a series of telescopes called the Maui Space Surveillance System, which the U.S. Space Force uses for space domain awareness, or SDA, recognizing space as a priority domain for advancing national security.
“Periodic recoating of the AEOS’s primary mirror ensures readiness of the telescope to support the SDA mission for the warfighter. There is never really a good time to take the telescope out of service, but it is better to plan the recoat as a periodic maintenance effort than having to shut down the telescope due to catastrophic mission degradation,” Wagenbach said.
However, the recoat took several tries, according to the release, because insects would disrupt the process.
According to the site’s technical director, Scott Hunt, the recoat should happen every four to six years. The last recoat was in 2008.