Deployment costs of large aperture systems in space or near-space are directly related to the weight of the system. In
order to minimize the weight of conventional primary mirrors and simultaneously achieve an agile system that is capable
of a wider field-of-view (FOV) and true optical zoom without macroscopic moving parts, we are proposing a
revolutionary alternative to conventional zoom systems where moving lenses/mirrors and gimbals are replaced with
lightweight carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) variable radius-of-curvature mirrors (VRMs) and MEMS
deformable mirrors (DMs). CFRP and MEMS DMs can provide a variable effective focal length, generating the
flexibility in system magnification that is normally accomplished with mechanical motion. By adjusting the actuation of
the CFRP VRM and MEMS DM in concert, the focal lengths of these adjustable elements, and thus the magnification of
the whole system, can be changed without macroscopic moving parts on a millisecond time scale. In addition, adding
optical tilt and higher order aberration correction will allow us to image off-axis, providing additional flexibility.
Sandia National Laboratories, the Naval Research Laboratory, Narrascape, Inc., and Composite Mirror Applications,
Inc. are at the forefront of active optics research, leading the development of active systems for foveated imaging, active
optical zoom, phase diversity, and actively enhanced multi-spectral imaging. Integrating active elements into an
imaging system can simultaneously reduce the size and weight of the system, while increasing capability and flexibility.
In this paper, we present recent progress in developing active optical (aka nonmechanical) zoom and MEMS based
foveated imaging for active imaging with a focus on the operationally responsive space application.