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Pioneering Space Science

Durham University has a global reputation for excellence. We partner with ambitious organisations of all sizes, helping your business to innovate, compete and grow by connecting you to our academic experts and leveraging our extensive networks.

We are at the forefront of space science, pioneering our understanding of the cosmos and conducting world-leading research in technologies for space exploration and communications. Our researchers have collaborated on projects with an array of commercial partners and government agencies, including the UK Space Agency, European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.
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Styalised image of the earth and satellites
People collaborating in the Ogden Centre

Ways to work with us

Download our brochure for more examples of the projects we undertake and how we work in collaboration with our partners to help them overcome their R&D challenges and keep them at the forefront of innovation.

Download our brochure

Space-Based Telescopes  

Our expertise extends to the development and utilisation of space-based telescopes. We have been actively involved in missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency's Euclid mission. These missions have provided unprecedented views of distant galaxies and cosmic phenomena, advancing our understanding of the universe's history and composition.  

Our Centre for Advanced Instrumentation developed the unique NIRSpec Integral Field Unit (IFU) at the focal point of the James Webb Space Telescope for full-field spectroscopy of distant galaxies. 

Precision Optics Technology and Applications 

We are a world-leading ultra-precise optics manufacturer, offering a wide range of services for optical parts design, manufacturing and testing. We have developed unique capabilities in optical design, integration and machining that enable previously impossible projects to become reality. 

We can offer a wide range of metrology and testing capabilities including optical interferometry, non-contact 3D profilometry, surface roughness characterisation and precision CMM measurements. The metrology service can be offered as part of the total system design service or as a standalone metrology service for the precision measurement of customer produced parts. 

Free-Space Optical Communications

Free-space optical communications between orbiting satellites and the ground plays a big part in the future of global communications. We have a long heritage of free-space optics, building one of the first Adaptive Optics systems to mitigate the detrimental effects of the Earth’s turbulence for astronomy in the early 1990s. We now have transferred this experience to free-space optical communications.

We develop atmospheric propagation modelling tools and instrumentation to measure the optical channel and Adaptive Optics technology to mitigate optical turbulence. We can offer free-space optics joint research, training, consultancy and knowledge exchange programmes.

Space Situational Awareness

Sustainability in space can only be achieved through effective governance of space activities. This, in turn, can only be achieved through scalable and independent monitoring of the space environment. Everything, everywhere, and all of the time.

We are developing scalable, independent and academically rigorous instrumentation to detect, track and characterise objects in space using a large number of low-cost and small optical sensors.

This strongly links to work in our Responsible Space Innovation Centre, where we bring together experts in space technology, governance and business operations.


University student
Researchers at Durham University offer technical expertise that cannot be found elsewhere. We have been collaborating closely on a multitude of projects for several years and hope this will continue to be fruitful long into the future.

Dr Hira Virdee
Founder & CEO Lumi Space


Take a look at some of our projects

Extremely Large Telescope (ELT)

We're developing key optical components and adaptive optics technologies for the next generation of the ELT.
Extremely Large Telescope


A new laser-based optical system for satellite communications capable of being housed in a CubeSat.
ALIGN Cubesat

Lunar Thermal Mapper

The LTM is an instrument on the Lunar Trailblazer (NASA SIMPLEx small planetary science mission) to detect and map water on the lunar surface.
All-aluminium freeform optical system for the Lunar Thermal Mapper

James Webb Space Telescope

Working with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, we produced diamond machine optics for the NIRSpec IFU, a key subsystem in the James Webb Space Telescope.
Artist's impression of the James Webb Space Telescope


Researchers at Durham University are working with Viasat to understand atmospheric turbulence in free-space optical communications.
Laser Guide Star unit on La Palma, used for experiments on astronomy and free-space optical communications by ESO / ESA / INAF / Durham. Credit: Lisa Bardou.


Our Research Centres

Together, our research centres are at the forefront space optics, astrophysics and cosmology research. Their work has contributed to ground-breaking discoveries revealing insights into dark matter, dark energy, and the formation of galaxies and cosmic structures.

Explore our research centres


Talk to us

Get in touch and a member of our team will get back to you.

Research and Innovation Services
Durham University
Mountjoy Centre
Stockton Road

T: 0191 334 4650