Skip to Content
G&H | Stingray Lens on ISS©️ G&H | Stingray Lens on ISS

The Apollo lens system – G&H’s off-the-shelf breakthrough in optical systems for space


How much does it cost to send out a small payload into Earth’s lower orbit in 2024? Of course, the exact calculations depend on several CubeSat design factors among which volume, mass energy consumption, and the type of information captured by the system. But regardless of these metrics, the bottom line is that commercial space ventures have become cheaper and more accessible in terms of actual project lift-off. For example, SpaceX, a platform that helped G&H’s high-performing laser amplifier get launched into space in 2023, estimates that a current $90 million build cost could shrink up to a future build cost of $20 million. Particularly in frequent reuse scenarios, a payload cost of $150 per kilogram is predicted to subside to a remarkable $10-20 per kilogram.[1] As such, the glass ceiling of this sector is being cracked open through the exponential rise in availability and adaptability of space-qualified applications.

In this environment, G&H has concentrated decades worth of aerospace and defense (A&D) expertise from its international R&D teams to launch the Apollo lenses system. This innovative space-grade, off-the-shelf solution is Gooch & Housego’s response to a rise in demand for optical space-ready components in the A&D market. As mentioned by Defense Intelligence Agency of the United States in their Challenges to Security in Space report, “Space commercialization is growing as companies augment or replace government-provided launch, communications, SSA, remote-sensing – also referred to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) – and human spaceflight services. These firms are opening access to space technologies, services, and products to government and nongovernment entities that can pay for their capabilities. The growth of viable commercial space enterprises best represents how the use of space has expanded in scope, scale, and importance across the globe.”[2] This represents the industry premise for the creation of our bespoke space-ready lens solution.

Apollo lensesApollo Lenses©️ G&H

The Apollo series is a visible through near-infrared (VNIR) system, designed to withstand harsh orbit conditions while also delivering high-resolution, high-performance imaging. Largely customizable in design, the “Made in the US” lens solution has been developed to accommodate the most rigorous exigencies emerging from space-interested businesses. The subsectors that the Apollo consortium addresses range from satellite communications, remote sensing and navigation to defense and scientific research.

The prototyping process capitalizes on the rich opto-mechanical heritage of designing custom lens systems at G&H | Stingray in the United States. The first conceptual stages for the Apollo series started off by eliminating typical issues often met during the development process for space. These challenges include: the tolerance of the optical system in harsh environments, the material choice for the lens system, and the mechanical integration of the optical system within the payload, among others. Figuring out a physically operational design that is ruggedized, high-performing and cost-effective for commercial use thus became a top priority for manufacturing.

The first aspect of the Apollo series that received attention was the material base used to create the entire assembly. It was important for the G&H team to work with first-grade NASA approved compounds, making the entire manufacturing process efficient and compliant. The product has incorporated radiation-hardened glasses, in combination with other standard glass materials that prolong the product’s longevity.

Next, the entire solution has been designed in such a way to prevent outgassing and redeposition through the chosen adhesive used for mechanical and structural purposes. This decision represents one of the most important material choices for space-grade optical components, as outgassing and redeposition cause the well-known lens haze phenomenon when the lens system reaches the Lower Earth Orbit (LEO). Additionally, an antireflective optical coating has been used to protect the lenses, while enhancing image visibility. The G&H choice for indium tin oxide (ITO) coated glass serves as an excellent material for high transparency and electrical conductivity.

The lens system operates in a temperature range of 55°C to +71°C. This all-weather aspect guarantees that the imaging system performs under the extreme thermal conditions met in outer space, including temperature fluctuations present in Earth’s lower orbit. Simultaneously, the athermal quality of the Apollo lenses ensures the unperturbed delivery of high-resolution imaging in wide temperature conditions.

From a performance viewpoint, the research and development team at G&H | Stingray looked at the lens aperture and focal length to obtain the best imaging experience. As such, the current Apollo series incorporates 6 lens types, all with an aperture of f/2.8:

  • SR5232-A01 90°HFOV 9.6mm EFL;
  • SR5233-A01 62°HFOV 13.5mm EFL;
  • SR5234-A01 45°HFOV 18.9mm EFL;
  • SR5235-A01 22°HFOV 37.8mm EFL;
  • SR5366-A01 15°HFOV 55.4mm EFL;
  • SR5353-A01 8°HFOV 103.2mm EFL.
Engineer at work in G&H KeeneEngineer at work in G&H Keene©️ G&H

Regarding the horizontal field of view (HFOV), the Apollo series has a 14.6 mm sensor width. The wavelength coverage of the solution encompasses a wide 450-1000nm spectrum, accommodating a variety of lighting conditions that lead to the same outcome: high-quality images and seamless data transfer, down to the smallest pixel. A special filter is included in the lens design to accomplish this level of performance. In terms of customization, for a narrower range of wavelengths, our team can personalize each lens to use a different filter that respects the designated characteristics.

During the prototyping phase, the Apollo lens system also needed to be able to handle a variety of lighting conditions for various scientific, defense, and industrial purposes. In this sense, the G&H | Stingray team tests each proposed Apollo lens system using a state-of-the art Monte Carlo imaging simulation, to provide precise data about the product performance. This approach is designed to establish a precise signal-to-noise ratio in terms of imaging assurance, and offers clients an idea of what performance they can expect from the G&H space solution over different temperature and pressure environments. That way, clients can be confident that the hardware they receive will meet or exceed their needs.

Apollo LensApollo Lens©️ G&H

The design philosophy for the Apollo series centers around reliability, performance and cost efficiency. With a history of developing high-precision, space-grade components and systems, G&H is augmenting the access companies have to the cosmos for their specific purposes. As such, this off-the-shelf lens solution is ready to broaden literal horizons for the next ventures interested in high-performing space imaging.

The Apollo lens series in a nutshell:

  • Ruggedized and radiation-resistant
  • Vented system
  • Athermal
  • C-mount
  • 1.2” format
  • VisNIR/VNIR capability
  • ITO coated and EMI shielded.

[1] PayloadResearch. (2024, January). The Starship Report. In PayloadResearch. Retrieved May 13, 2024, from

[2] Defense Intelligence Agency. (2022). CHALLENGES TO SECURITY IN SPACE. In Defense Intelligence Agency. Defense Intelligence Agency of the United States.

Cubesats Launching From a Satellite in Earth Orbit