Spectrometers employing acousto-optic tunable filters (AOTFs) rapidly gain popularity in space, and in particular on interplanetary missions. They allow for reducing volume, mass, and complexity of the instrumentation. To date, space operations of 11 AOTF spectrometers are reported in the literature. They were used for analyzing ocean color, greenhouse gases, atmospheres of Mars and Venus, and for lunar mineralogy. More instruments for the Moon, Mars, and asteroid mineralogy are in flight, awaiting launch, or in the state of advanced development. The AOTFs are used in point (pencil-beam) spectrometers for selecting echelle diffraction orders, or in hyper-spectral imagers and microscopes. We review the AOTF-employing devices flown in space or ready to set off. The paper considers basic principles of the AOTF and science applications of the AOTF spectrometers, and describes developed instruments in some detail. We also address some advanced developments for future missions and plans. In addition, we discuss lessons learned during instrument design, build, calibration, and exploitation, and advantages and limitations in implementing the AOTF-based systems in space instrumentation.
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