CFRP-Structure in Optronic Devices and Payload


In most optronic defense and space applications, structures must be lightweight and ultrastable. These state-of-the-art optronic devices need to operate/survive in various environmental conditions, including wide temperature excursions and severe vibration levels under atmospheric pressure or in a vacuum.

  • Carbon fiber structures are mainly use for airborne and space platforms (Photo: Department of National Defence of Canada)
  • 15" primary mirror almost entirely made of CFRP for CESAR


INO has been extensively involved in various projects incorporating advanced opto-mechanical materials such as carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP). These approaches benefited from the amazing stiffness-to-weight ratio as well as the near zero in-plane coefficient of thermal expansion of this family of materials.

The result is lightweight systems that yield ultimate dimensional stability over a wide temperature range. Such attributes reduce system complexity by reducing/eliminating the need for active thermal control. This result in further mass reduction, reduced system complexity, and increased system robustness

Thanks to the expertise of its Opto-Mechanical team, INO has developed a broad range of CFRP designs, from athermalized uniaxial telescopes to more complex multi-element systems. Introducing CFRP materials into optronic systems requires techniques that are unique to the opto-mechanical field. For instance, the choice of matrix and fibers will have a direct impact on thermally induced distortions and the coefficient of moisture absorption. Judicious design insight makes it possible to take advantage of the ideal in-plane CFRP properties without suffering from through-the-thickness resin-dominated properties. Special techniques were developed to maintain dimensional stability through structural joints and joining with dissimilar materials/optical glass. Our design tools include system performance evaluations using digital simulations.


Furthermore, INO’s System Integration team is backed by the Opto-Mechanical team’s over 50 years of combined experience. This ensures that we can quickly provide our customers with a state-of-the-art design.

Whether your application is for military, aerospace, or lab use, INO delivers solutions built to withstand harsh environments. INO has a complete environmental testing facility where it can submit your hardware to the most demanding environments it is likely to face.

INO has an extensive thermal stability testing apparatus and has developed an empirical database of dimensional stability tests. These engineering data provide stable and robust design solutions that can be used in a wide range of environmental conditions and even in a vacuum if needed.

The hundreds of solutions we have developed in the past give us the expertise to complete your projects using demonstrated, rugged opto-mechanical approaches. No one can afford numerous iterations of opto-mechanical designs. INO will design it right, right from the start.



The goal of CESAR (Compact Echelle Spectrograph for Aeronomical Research) is to provide a high-throughput, high-dispersion, large-passband spectrograph that is specifically designed for aeronomers. The CESAR instrument operates at substantially smaller solar depression angles than current astronomical systems, permitting twilight (dayglow) studies. In addition, CESAR is portable, using an astronomical grade echelle spectrograph scaled to allow siting at multiple geophysically significant stations. Aeronomical use of these features significantly expands the range of upper atmospheric science investigations.

The CESAR development effort is funded by the National Science Foundation and led by Dr. Tom Slanger of the Molecular Physics Laboratory at SRI International, with the involvement of Lyle Broadfoot, University of Arizona, and Steven Vogt, University of California, Santa Cruz.


The camera of the CESAR instrument is designed and manufactured by INO. It is based on a Maksutov catadioptric configuration that allows better control of chromatic aberrations over wide wavebands, with no refocusing required when passing from one exposure to another. The inside chamber can be purged with dry air to prevent water condensation on the lenses. The structure is made of CFRP for a minimal coefficient of thermal expansion, and a play-free kinematic translation stage allows in-field focus adjustment with 1 µm precision. Elastomeric strain-free mounts are used for the main optical components, including the 15 in. mirror and two 9 in. spherical lenses.

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