The design, manufacture, and testing of optical quality surface micromachined deformable mirrors (DMs) is described. With such mirrors, the shape of the reflective surface can be modified dynami-cally to compensate for optical aberrations and thereby improve image resolution in telescopes or microscopes. Over several years, we have developed microelectromechanical system (MEMS) processing technologies that allow production of optical quality of surface micromachined mirrors. These process steps have been integrated with a commercial foundry process to produce deformable mirrors of unprecedented quality. The devices employ 140 electrostatic actuators. Measurements of their performance detailed in this paper include 2Â´m of useful stroke, 3nm position repeatability, >90% reflectivity, and flatness better than 20nm RMS. A chemo-mechanical polishing process has been used to improve surface quality of the mirrors, and a gold coating process has been developed to improve the reflectivity without introducing a significant amount of stress in the mirror mem-brane. An ion bombardment technique has been developed to flatten mirrors. These silicon based deformable mirrors have the potential to modulate spatial and temporal features of an optical wave-front, and have applications in imaging, beam-forming, and optical communication systems. Design considerations and performance evaluation of recently fabricated DMs are presented.© (2004) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.