Diffractive lenses offer two potential advantages for very large aperture space telescopes; very loose surface-figure tolerances and physical implementation as thin, flat optical elements. In order to actually realize these advantages one must be able to build large diffractive lenses with adequate optical precision and also to compactly stow the lens for launch and then fully deploy it in space.
We will discuss the recent fabrication and assembly demonstration of a 5m glass diffractive Fresnel lens at LLNL. Optical performance data from smaller full telescopes with diffractive lens and corrective optics show diffraction limited performance with broad bandwidths. A systems design for a 20m space telescope will be presented. The primary optic can be rolled to fit inside of the standard fairings of the Delta IV vehicle. This configuration has a simple deployment and requires no orbital assembly. A twenty meter visible telescope could have a significant impact in conventional astronomy with eight times the resolution of Hubble and over sixty times the light gathering capacity. If the light scattering is made acceptable, this telescope could also be used in the search for terrestrial planets.© (2004) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.