TNO developed a Wave Front Sensor (WFS) instrument for the GAIA mission. This Wave Front Sensor will be used to monitor the wave front errors of the two main telescopes mounted on the GAIA satellite, which may be corrected by a 5-degree of freedom (DOF) mechanism during operation. The GAIA-WFS will operate over a broad wavelength (450 to 900 nm) and under cryogenic conditions (130 to 200 K operation temperature). The WFS uses an all reflective, a-thermal design and is of the type of Shack-Hartmann. The boundary condition for the design is that the focal plane of the WFS is the same plane as the focal plane of the GAIA telescopes. The spot pattern generated after a micro lens array (MLA) by a star is compared to the pattern of one of the three calibration sources that is included in the WFS, allowing in flight calibration. We show the robust and lightweight opto mechanical design that is optimised for launch and cryogenic operation. Furthermore we give details on its alignment and commissioning. The WFS can measure wave front distortions in the order of lambda/1000, and determines the focal plane with an accuracy of 50 μm.© (2009) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.