Aerospace engineering requires detailed thinking, advanced technology, highly precise components, and a multi-faceted approach to complex problems. Although small parts of whole systems, calibration targets play an integral role in helping NASA in its space exploration journey. Read on to learn about their implications for aerospace, other industry applications, and Photo Solutions’ custom solutions. 

Calibration Targets For Space Exploration 

Calibration involves two main factors: observation and adjustment. On a small scale, we do this every day when we adjust the brightness on our phones or the contrast and color of an edited photo. On a much more complex scale, NASA uses calibration to make space exploration more precise and to make detailed observations that inform future explorations. For this, calibration targets play a big role. 

Specifically when it comes to space rovers, these targets help to determine accurate colors, brightness, and other information gathered. Because the calibration targets on rovers have known properties, their main function is to help scientists fine-tune their observations from images and other instruments. These tiny components are installed in four locations with distinct tasks: 

Pancam: Sundial-shaped target located on the rover deck. This is generally considered the most unique target of the four and helps scientists adjust images from the mission.  

Mini-TES: An internal target in the Pancam Mast Assembly and an external target on the deck near the low-gain antenna.  

Mössbauer Spectrometer: A “thin slab of rock rich in magnetite” under the rover’s solar panels. 

APXS: Target located inside the rover’s dust doors. When the doors are closed, they protect the target from dust and turn the APXS into an interior surface target. 

Together, these components help aerospace engineers adjust brightness, collect measurements, and verify the instruments are in working order. 

Precision Matters 

Custom calibration targets allow for optimal accuracy, which can have resounding implications for aerospace engineering. The defined shape grid pattern we manufacture onto our components’ surface is client-specific. This means that your calibration target will be custom fit to your engineering application, eliminating a wide margin of error. 

To create these components, we use photolithography for precise edge features and accurate calibration down to a 2um resolution. Then, depending on the specific application, we can machine substrate to customer specifications on glass, quartz, and borosilicate. 

How Else Photo Solutions Supports Aerospace Applications 

Aerospace engineering involves far more than rovers on space exploration missions. With the design and manufacturing of aircraft, spacecraft, propulsion systems, satellites, and missiles, the possibilities are endless. Likewise, the engineering complications can also be endless, which is why aerospace engineers need precise solutions down to the smallest component. 

As technology advances, aerospace ventures increasingly turn to optics for faster sensors, data converters, and better overall accuracy. They typically provide more security than their traditional counterparts as well. In general, for industries like aerospace, having low maintenance and more reliable components allows for greater overall innovation. 

Photo Solutions provides more than calibration targets to this industry. We also manufacture encoder discs, scales, hub and disc assemblies, and reticles for aircraft, spacecraft, aiming and tracking devices, drone sensors, and more.  

Encoder Discs

For mission-critical designs, we can fabricate encoder discs in diameters from 5mm to 600 mm with custom tooling and production processes. Our precise manufacturing uses various encoder materials including glass, quartz, film, and aluminum. When applicable, we can complete custom orders on special composite configurations. These enable easy and accurate installation at our client’s facilities. As with most industries, we know aerospace often requires highly customized components, so we welcome unusual and custom design projects. 

Encoder Scales 

In the same vein as our encoder discs, we also have 30 years of encoder scale manufacturing with a multitude of designs and form factors under our belt—including those for aerospace. We can custom fabricate encoder scales in lengths from 2mm to 800mm with custom tooling and production processes. As with our discs, we can manufacture various materials, which include glass, quartz, film, and aluminum. In addition, we offer reflective and transmissive products for various applications and sensors. 

Hub and Disc Assemblies 

We have experience providing hub and disc assemblies for aircraft pneumatic, hydraulic, mechanical, or spring-applied disc brakes, as well as other aerospace applications. Our precision Swiss screw machined hub bores are toleranced at +.0005”/-.0000 with the disc pattern concentricity to <.001.” If needed, we can bond to actuators, gears, flywheels, and other assemblies with protective, removable liners for easy installation to your product. 


Similar to the fine grid pattern on calibration targets, reticles have fine patterns and lines typically imaged onto glass, Mylar, or aluminum substrates. For aerospace, these reticles are often used for sun angle sensor systems, satellites, telescope sights, and more. We provide custom reticles for aiming, targeting, and measuring up to 2um resolution. 

Other Industries We Support With Calibration Targets 

Calibration targets are helpful components that can be used across industries to increase an instrument’s accuracy and precision. Other applications and industries we can support with these components include the following. 

Robotic equipment: Robot calibration can improve the accuracy of industrial robots by helping to generate more accurate programs, test the overall performance and accuracy, and aid in offline performance. Calibration targets can also be applied to robot assembly systems, similar to aerospace assembly.  

Manufacturing monitoring equipment: With this equipment, constant monitoring is critical. Calibration targets provide ongoing data collection that provides information essential amidst changing conditions. 

Medical diagnostic equipment: Photonic technology helps to provide low-cost, effective ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease. These components are used in medical diagnostic equipment to provide feedback for the instruments’ performance and observe the imaging system’s resolution, distortion, and magnification. 

Custom Engineering Solutions 

At Photo Solutions, we have over three decades of experience crafting precision photonic components for aerospace, medical, automation, and beyond. From custom-made calibration targets for space rovers to optical encoders for factory automation, we have the solutions for even the most complex engineering problems. Let’s see what we can do together: 503-836-3914.