High-Gain Antenna Gimbal for the Mars Exploration Rover

Ball Aerospace is a leader in the development and production of high-performance optical gimbals for military, science, and commercial space applications, with expertise spanning more than 45 years.

Our space-qualified gimbals meet challenging performance demands for pointing various payloads at high degrees of accuracy and in extreme environments, both in space and on the ground. These gimbals accommodate diverse payloads including mirror flats, optical telescopes, science instrument packages, and antennas. We offer custom gimbal designs to meet specific needs.


BCP 5000 Antenna Gimbal used on WorldView-1 and WorldView-2

Ball Aerospace built the High-Gain Antenna Gimbal (HGAG) for the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit, and Opportunity, that landed on Mars in 2003. This gimbal is an essential part of the system responsible for returning the exciting images from Mars back to Earth. The Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) spacecraft built by Ball Aerospace features a two-axis beryllium gimbal for pointing the visible sensor, and providing line-of-sight stabilization. The SBSS gimbal enables the telescope to rapidly target, and track objects in space without repositioning the spacecraft.

Each gimbal system uses Ball Aerospace’s proprietary, Vac Kote®, vacuum lubrication process, to protect contacting surfaces in space environments. There are over 300 wet or dry Vac Kote lubrication options to meet temperature, contamination, loading and radiation requirements.


Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) Gimbal

Ball Aerospace’s gimbals consist of drive actuators, precision bearings, angular position transducers, signal transfer devices, and a lightweight stiff structure. When required, our gimbals also include coude optics, caging mechanisms, and redundant electronics. Typical performance is summarized by the following:

  • Large field-of-regard coverage 
  • High-accuracy pointing 
  • Large payload capacity 
  • Position accuracy to <5 µrad 
  • Payload capacity to >2,000 lb 
  • Structural stiffness to >100 Hz

The newest entry into the Ball Aerospace line of gimbals is the Risley Optical Gimbal System. The Risley gimbal offers a compact solution to two-axis optical pointing through the use of rotating prism wedges.


Satellites & Spacecraft

BCP Family

Specialty Spacecraft

Instruments & Sensors

Electro-optical Sensors

Tactical Electro-Optical

Advanced Imaging

Cryogen Fuel Storage

Pointing & Tracking Mechanisms

Tactical Laser Applications

Technical Services

Antennas & Microwave Systems


Conformal Antennas

Low Observable Antennas

Phased Arrays

Reflector Antennas

RF Subsystems

Silhouette Antennas

Tactical Antennas

Aerospace Technology
& Components

Ball InfraRed Black Coating

Fast-steering Mirrors

Star Trackers

Laser Applications


Vac Kote Lubricants