Many scientific and industrial applications often require high performance optical systems utilizing spatially shaped illumination patterns of laser beams. Precisely shaped line illumination can be used for various line scanning systems or surface inspection devices. In order to achieve the highest resolution or superior signal to noise ratio limited by the fundamental theory, a diffraction limited illumination optical system (e.g. <0.8 Strehl ratio) gives the narrowest illumination line width determined by the system's NA (Numerical Aperture) value. For high precision and in-factory industrial applications, the Diffraction Limited Line Illumination (DLLI) needs to be controlled in three dimensional space rapidly as the target object under the illumination may not be always aligned with respect to the illumination system. A steerable DLLI system with three degrees of freedom (i.e. axial displacement, rotation, and tilt) is developed using an adaptive optics system. By electronically controlling the Zernike based surface shapes of the deformable mirror, the DLLI in free space is actively positioned and oriented with high accuracy. The geometrical optics based mathematical model to control the Zernike modes of the deformable mirror and the performance of a bench-top proof-ofconcept system will be presented with experimental data and analysis results.