Space-based telescope can image Earth and beyond

April 6, 2018, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
An LLNL-developed monolithic telescope is 8.5 centimeters in diameter and is mounted on a nano-satellite developed by Tyvak. The demonstration system was launched earlier this year. Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers have developed and tested an optical telescope system that can be used for Earth and space observation.

The team, led by Wim de Vries, built and tested several designs for high-resolution monolithic optical telescope systems, fabricated from a single piece of fused silica, for deployment on small satellites.

After successfully testing one of the designs in 2016 on a high-altitude NASA aircraft, the Livermore team partnered with Tyvak, a commercial satellite developer, to integrate the monolithic telescope into a "CubeSAT" (a type of modularized miniaturized satellite).

"These designs are extremely compact compared to conventional telescopes and robust against vibration loads and temperature swings," de Vries said.

The lightweight telescope measures as small as 8.5 centimeters in diameter and is so compact that the satellite it is mounted on can be smaller than traditional space vehicles.

This demonstration system, which was launched in early 2018 into low-Earth orbit, has produced excellent imagery of both stellar fields and ground targets. Potential applications under consideration for the low-cost imaging system include commercial and government Earth observation, space debris detection and tracking and astronomical science observations.

One advantage of the telescope is that it can take images of in daytime and night during its 95-minute orbit of Earth, whereas terrestrial telescopes can only take images at night.

"It really helps fill in the coverage gaps of ground-based telescopes," de Vries said. "We were very pleased with the optical performance of the on-orbit."

The demonstration raises the technical maturity of the monolithic technology, leading to new opportunities to insert LLNL imaging payloads in other development efforts.

Explore further: Look up – it's a satellite!

Related Stories

Look up – it's a satellite!

April 5, 2018

I saw my first artificial satellite with my naked eyes during the summer of 1994. I was watching pieces of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impact Jupiter from a small observatory with a college astronomy club when someone pointed ...

Robot would assemble modular telescope—in space

July 13, 2016

Enhancing astronomers' ability to peer ever more deeply into the cosmos may hinge on developing larger space-based telescopes. A new concept in space telescope design makes use of a modular structure and an assembly robot ...

CTA prototype telescope, ASTRI, achieves first light

June 15, 2017

During the nights of 25 and 26 May, the camera of the ASTRI telescope prototype recorded its first ever Cherenkov light while undergoing testing at the astronomical site of Serra La Nave (Mount Etna) in Sicily managed by ...

Recommended for you

Brown dwarf detected in the CoRoT-20 system

July 16, 2018

An international group of astronomers has discovered a new substellar object in the planetary system CoRoT-20. The newly identified object was classified as a brown dwarf due to its mass, which is greater than that of the ...

'X'-ploring the Eagle Nebula and 'Pillars of Creation'

July 13, 2018

The Eagle Nebula, also known as Messier 16, contains the young star cluster NGC 6611. It also the site of the spectacular star-forming region known as the Pillars of Creation, which is located in the southern portion of the ...

Observatories team up to reveal rare double asteroid

July 13, 2018

New observations by three of the world's largest radio telescopes have revealed that an asteroid discovered last year is actually two objects, each about 3,000 feet (900 meters) in size, orbiting each other.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.