Sigmund Jähn - 1976

30 years Jena-Optronik

Space is fascinating. It inspires people to aspire to higher goals. And it’s the perfect place for pioneers: people whose curiosity leads to trailblazing discoveries.

Our roots go back to the multispectral imager MKF-6 and the first star sensors. The developments started in the early 1970s by VEB Carl Zeiss Jena.

Multi-spectral imager MKF-6 Carl-Zeiss, Jena, ca. 1978 (ZEISS Archiv)

Origin in the 70's

As guest in the flight control center in the Year 1974 Source: Dr. Achim Zickler (private)
Group picture with the MKF-6 in the year 1976 Source: Dr. Achim Zickler (private)
Sigmund Jähn Source: Dr. Achim Zickler (private)


Foundation of the company Jena Optronik GmbH

Signing of the partnership agreement: The company formerly known as Deutsche Aerospace (now Airbus Defence & Space) founds the company Jena-Optronik GmbH together with Jenoptik.

After its registration in the commercial register, Jena-Optronik officially began operating as an enterprise in April 1992. The company headquarters is located in Jena, Thuringia. The company is heavily dependent on the extensive technological competencies provided by the optical and optoelectronic sectors within this region.

The company’s initial phase was characterized by contributions to scientific missions carried out by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.

First achievements in space

May 1996

The installation of the remote sensing instrument MOMS-2P (Modular Optoelectronic Multispectral Scanner) on the space station MIR and the beginning of operational activity. This instrument offered the possibility for the first time ever of capturing and combining spectral properties of the earth’s surface in their three-dimensionality, and therefore also the opportunity to record these type of three-dimensional terrain constructions.

October 1997

The first flight of the German micro re-entry capsule MIRKA, developed by and built under the supervision of Jena-Optronik. This mission was highly successful and it landed after 14 days in orbit
MIKRA was designed as a sphere, with a diameter of 1 m and a total mass of 150 kg. It was launched into orbit in Plesetzk, Russia by a SOJUS carrier rocket. After detachment, MIRKA returned to earth in its ballistic re-entry phase. Its two-stage parachute system was activated at a height of approx. 7 km. Numerous experiments were conducted during its ballistic re-entry to the earth’s atmosphere.

May und September 1997

When I got on board the ARP-RVS project as a system engineer, there wasn’t even a piece of hardware to speak of yet. But only seven months later, our device passed a test carried out by NASA, which was crucial in it being authorized to travel on shuttle missions. Within the space of a year, we had constructed and qualified an aircraft model. It flew for the first time in spring of 1997 to the space station MIR on the Atlantis shuttle, and everything worked perfectly. Bettina Möbius, Chief Developer of the RVS


Successful launch of star sensors

The first contracts for the ASTRO 15 star sensors were signed with customers from Japan and the USA.  The maiden voyage of the ASTRO 15 was carried out in 2003.

Source: German GeoResearchCentre

In memory of the CHAMP start in July 2000

Magritta Feige from the Accounting Department remembers the launch of the small scientific satellite CHAMP (CHAllenging Minisatellite Payload) on 15th July 2000, which was developed and manufactured in Jena:

“The CHAMP launch was videoed at the Geo Research Centre (GFZ) in Potsdam and broadcasted live to researchers in Plesetsk, Russia. Everyone involved was brimming with expectation and very excited. Everything went smoothly: From the launch, to the suspension of the satellite and unfolding of the satellite wing, to programming CHAMP in outer space from earth and bringing it into orbit. We were all relieved and very proud!”

Launch of ESA’s scientific mission, INTEGRAL

October,17th 2001

INTEGRAL uses two instruments to discover cosmic gamma sources. Both are always directed towards the same region of space and simultaneously perform observations. This is the first time that it has been possible to observe gamma sources and spontaneous gamma ray bursts in outer space to this degree of accuracy. Gamma spectrometer detectors and a so-called anti-coincidence system (ACS) were required for these purposes.

The development and manufacturing of the anti-coincidence system (ACS) led to an expansion in competencies in complex system and integration tasks at Jena-Optronik within the context of international missions for space exploration.


Jena-Optronik belongs 100% to JENOPTIK AG

Awarded projects and products

2005 / Accolade for the GMB Team part of the NASA Mission

Jena-Optronik GmbH, in cooperation with the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, developed, manufactured and prepared the main components of the GMB (Glast Burst Monitor) for use in outer space in the NASA satellite mission FERMI (formerly GLAST - Gamma-ray Large Area Telescope), which involved a large area telescope as a main instrument and the GBM as a secondary instrument.

2007 / "Boeing Supplier of the Year"

The ASTRO15 was developed exclusively by Jena-Optronik and could not have been produced without the solid dedication, immense creativity and high level of motivation of the entire company. This award, bestowed to us by Boeing, fully emphasises that the star sensor ASTRO15 is a state of the art, high-tech product which was developed in Jena and which has prevailed on the world market in the face of tough competition.


With the docking of the first ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) “Jules Verne” by the European Spacy Agency (ESA) on the international space station ISS, Europe reached a significant milestone in space exploration. The rendezvous and docking sensors made by Jena-Optronik enabled this fully-automated process at a height of 340 kilometers. Due to the previous docking of the ATV, the entire mission was a success for the project’s 41 international partners as well as European space travel.

Source: RapidEye satellite constellation

29.08.2008 / Multispectral camera made in Jena first used

With the help of a camera system made in Jena, the satellite construction RapidEyeeinen established a geo-information service. A fleet of five structurally identical satellites, on which the Jena Spaceborne Scanner instruments were positioned, enabled the recording of over 4 million km2 of image data per day. All five satellites were launched on board a DNEPR rocket at the Baikonur Spaceport in Kazakhstan.  The optics sector, which has a long tradition in Jena, was further expanded with this new multispectral camera.


Degree programme “Space Electronics” developed in Jena

“Only on the basis of close cooperation with Jena-Optronik, which is active in the aerospace sector and is among the pioneers in this area, were we able to achieve the ambitious goal of developing this degree programme. In this way, we are able to give students both a theoretical framework and an in-depth, practice-orientated insight into electronics development, which is applicable on a global level” explains Professor Burkart Voß, academic supervisor for the degree programme. When it came to selecting the course content, there was intensive coordination between Jena-Optronik and those responsible for the degree programme at the University of Applied Sciences in Jena, which also led to employees from Jena-Optronik providing support in teaching the programme.


Jena-Optronik belongs 100% to Airbus DS (formerly Astrium)

02.05.2013 / Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel visits Jena-Optronik

“Experiencing innovation. Guaranteeing employability.” Jena-Optronik has set demographic-orientated work in motion under this motto. Within the context of her dialogue trip on the topic of “demography,” the federal chancellor visited this aerospace company in Thuringia on 2nd May 2013. “The federal government’s motto for our demographic strategy is “every age counts,” Merkel said. “It was here that I became certain that this idea was being put into action, and that everyday life consists of older people learning from the younger generation. It also became clear that the younger generation are well able to apply their knowledge, and that they can incorporate what they learned over the course of their training into their daily lives.”

Source: ESA

25.07.2013 / Launch of ASTRO APS with AlphaSat

“I wish to congratulate the ESA for Alphasat’s successful first flight. The fact that ASTRO APS from Jena-Optronik completed its maiden voyage on board the satellite gives us even more of a reason to celebrate. The entire project team can proudly say, that by reaching this remarkable milestone, an exciting phase of development and qualification has successfully come to an end. Our thanks go to the ESA and the German Aeropace Centre for their continual support over the course of this project. I wish AlphaSat all the best in its long-term mission” commented Dr. Axel Kwiatkowski, Project Team for Star Sensors at Jena-Optronik.


11.11.2014 / Investigating the Churyumov–Gerasimenko Comet

Jena-Optronik, together with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), developed the lens system and mechanics for the instrument ROLIS (Rosetta Lander Imaging System) on board the lander probe Philae. ROLIS captured images prior to and after the landing, which will provide knowledge on the comet’s surface characteristics and its multitude of surface structures.  (Picture: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM, CC BY-SA IGO 3.0)


Opening of our new building

In the presence of the parliamentary state secretary Brigitte Zypries, German Federal Coordinator for Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Thuringian Minister for Economics, Science and the Digital Society Wolfgang Tiefensee, Jena Optronik GmbH ceremonially inaugurated its new development on 26th May 2015.

“Optical products from Jena enjoy an outstanding reputation right across the world! This success has not just happened by chance: The example of Jena Optronik shows how well and successful the coordination between researchers, developers and companies works in the region and what success is possible as a result. Thuringia and Jena have created a fantastic location and offer an innovation-friendly environment for Jena Optronik and many other high-tech companies” says Brigitte Zypries, the parliamentary state secretary.


Jena-Optronik is also participating in the third COPERNICUS programme mission. The Sentinel 3 was launched on 16th February 2016. (Bildquelle: Copernicus Sentinel data - 2016)

How has our home planet changed?  How has the climate developed?  What role do humans play in all of this?

The future, our existence and the welfare of the human race depend on the answers to these questions. Which measures must be introduced and which decisions must be made also depend on these answers.

The programme “Copernicus,” coordinated by the European Commission, was financed and implemented by the aerospace sectors of member states belonging to the European Space Agency (ESA), and reached a milestone in finding the answers to these questions, marking the beginning of a new epoch in observing the earth from outer space.


Visions and missions

Jena-Optronik was tapped as a supplier for the next generation spacecraft, the reusable Dream Chaser® spacecraft With the program and its contribution, Jena-Optronik enters the market of in-orbit multiuse missions. Each Dream Chaser will have two RVS3000 sensors on board, which will be dismounted by an astronaut and stowed within the spacecraft before the undocking. "In the literal sense: chasing the dream of travelling in space", Dietmar Ratzsch, President & CEO Jena-Optronik.


Explore new horizons: the fascination of space drives us


October 2019 / Science fiction becomes reality

The MEV mission to extend the lifespan of geosynchronous satellites is truly a milestone. The MEV will dock to a satellite and take control of its attitude and orbital control system.

Our technology on board: star sensor ASTRO APS, Rendezvous- and Docking Sensor RVS 3000-3d and a Visible Sensor Suite (short: VSS) on their maiden flights.



Tradition, innovation & future

Northrop Grumman’s “Mission Extension Vehicle-1” (MEV-1) successfully docked with the Intelsat 901 (IS901) spacecraft on February 25, 2020. MEV-2 (launched on August 15, 2020) is on its way to orbit, again with space technology from Jena on board.

As vast as the universe is, there is no space for inaccuracy:  Our ASTRO XP star sensor won the "Thüringer Innovationspreis 2020" in the category "tradition & future".

2021 / On our way to Moon, Mars and beyond

Within Mars Sample Return Mission our star sensor and LiDAR will guide the way to the red planet and back to Earth.

DART mission (Double-Asteroid-Redirect-Test) started successfully on November 24th, 2021 and is heading to Dimorphos, which is the Moon of Didymos astroid. The successor mission HERA with star sensors from Jena-Optronik on board is going to be launched end of 2024.


We are Artemis

As part of the NASA mission Artemis I, the spaceship Orion was successfully launched into space on November 16th 2022 and is headed to orbit the Moon. Congratulations to NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration, European Space Agency - ESA all involved partners and especially our customer Lockheed Martin! What a groundbreaking mission. We are proud to be part of the journey with our ASTRO APS.


Back to the Moon!


NASA's "Psyche" mission is taking us to a new world of asteroid research, as the there suspected components could provide insights into how planets are formed. Our ASTRO APS star sensors are supporting the spacecraft and guiding the way to the metal asteroid of the same name between Mars and Jupiter. (Picture: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

To be continued ...