An Australian company, Electro-Optic Systems (EOS), is one of the biggest developers of large, high-precision, optical research telescopes in the world. In fact, EOS has designed, built and installed the SkyMapper telescope and its enclosure at Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales.
The headquarters of EOS is at the Mt Stromlo Observatory near Canberra, but its reach is international. Equipment the company has installed include the University of Tokyo’s two-metre telescope at Mount Haleakala, Hawai’i, a two-metre telescope in the Himalayas for the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, and the 2.4 metre Advanced Planet Finder (APF) at the University of California’s Lick Observatory.
The EOS Group made its reputation in space laser ranging and satellite tracking. Its diversification into optical telescopes was stimulated by a contract in 1995 to build six precision laser ranging stations—with telescopes and beam directors—to monitor seismic movement around Tokyo Bay. “The program had a fairly tight deadline,” says Chief Executive Officer Craig Smith. “No-one could agree to supply those six telescopes to us within the time we needed them, so we set up our own company to do it ourselves.”
EOS has also begun to use its expertise to design, build and test systems to track and record space debris—human-made rubbish in orbit around the Earth—down to a diameter of 10 cm or less. “The next step is to develop high-power laser systems to actually manipulate the debris in space. “If you get enough energy density onto them,” Craig explains, “you can actually push them around. You can de-orbit the debris and drag it back into the atmosphere where it will burn up.”