As a consequence of the ongoing interest for deployment of laser systems into space, suitable optical components have to be
developed and must be extensively space qualified to ensure reliable, continuous, and autonomous operation. The exposure
to space environment can adversely affect the longevity of optics, mainly coatings, and lead to system degradation. An
increased operational risk is due to the air-vacuum effect, which can strongly reduce the laser damage resistance of optical
coatings. For this purpose, a vacuum laser damage test bench has been developed and is operated at DLR. In extensive test
campaigns, all damage-prone optics of the ALADIN laser system (being the laser source of the upcoming ESA ADM
Aeolus mission) were tested under operative conditions at the fundamental and at the harmonic wavelengths of Nd:YAG.
Further operational risks are due directly to operation under high vacuum. In the past, several space-based laser missions
have suffered from anomalous performance loss or even failure after short operation times. This degradation is due to
selective contamination of laser-exposed optical surfaces fed by outgassing constituents. These volatile components are
omnipresent in vacuum vessels. Various organic and inorganic species were tested at our facilities for their criticality on
deposit built-up. Finally, active optical components like Q-switch crystals or frequency converter crystals can also suffer
from bulk absorption induced by high-energy radiation (gray tracking) and dehydration. To analyze these effects, an ultrahigh
vacuum phase matching unit was set up to test various combinations of SHG and THG frequency converters.