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Small Space Telescopes

CubeSat Astronomy Workshop

 

In the mid-to-late 2020s, fully autonomous constellations of mass-produced, modest aperture UV and IR telescopes, could bring to space-based astronomical research many of the same benefits that have been provided by arrays and networks of autonomous ground-based visual-wavelength telescopes. Such constellations would nicely complement the autonomous visual ground telescopes as well as larger space telescopes. These constellations would not only expand the space research opportunities of professional astronomers and their graduate students but, thanks to economies of quantity production and their autonomous operation, could also open up research opportunities for undergraduate students and citizen scientists in a manner similar to what has already occurred with autonomous ground-based systems.

 

Constellations of fully autonomous UV and IR CubeSat telescopes in space could provide time series photometric and spectroscopic follow-up observations of interesting objects identified by larger space and ground survey telescopes. The few (and expensive) large survey telescopes take discovery “snapshots,” while the numerous (and low cost) smaller ground telescopes (at visual wavelengths) and space telescopes (at UV and IR wavelengths) make follow-up “movies” of interesting objects. Together, these various telescopes could form a synergistic, efficient whole.

 

To help advance future prospects for fully autonomous constellations of mass-produced, modest aperture UV and IR telescopes, the Fairborn Institute has organized and participated in three workshops, a study, and a paper for the National Academies of Science’s Astro 2020 Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

California Polytechnic State
University Workshop

Friday, April 26, 2019

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California

Chair: Charles Van Steenwyk / Co-Chair: Russell Genet

Sponsored by PlaneWave Instruments

In 1999, California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) and Stanford University proposed designing, building, and operating standardized miniature satellites they called CubeSats as an educational tool for teaching students about spacecraft hardware, electronics, programming, and operation.  The basic 1U CubeSat is 10 cm on a side, while a 3U CubeSat is 10x10x30 cm.  This standardization not only allowed multiple CubeSats to be deployed from spring-loaded boxes as excess cargo, but encouraged the development and manufacture of miniature power, communications, computer, and orientation modules that fit together in a CubeSat.

 

Originally, most CubeSats were designed by students and faculty, but commercially designed and operated CubeSats are now in the majority, such as the many downward-pointing 3U telescopes built and operated by PLANET, a Silicon Valley tech startup. It’s not hard to envision many upward-pointing CubeSat telescopes designed, built, and utilized by students and faculty for astronomical research. A few have already been launched, and, as suggested by Arizona State University astronomer Evgenya Shkolnik by the title of her recent paper (attached), we are “On the verge of an astronomy CubeSat revolution.”

 

Each year, for the past 15 years, Cal Poly has hosted the CubeSat Developer’s Workshop, and this year (2019) it will be immediately followed, by a modest, one-day CubeSat Astronomy Workshop. All are welcome. You can register via the website of the Institute for Student Astronomical Research, www.in4star.org/cubesat-astronomy. Alternatively, you can register at the Cal Poly CubeSat Developer’s Workshop website,  www.cubesat.org/workshop-information. Scroll down near the bottom.

 

Contacts  

Workshop Chair: Charles VanSteenwyk, cvanstee2@gmail.com, 805.503.5087

Workshop Co-Chair: Russell Genet, russmgenet@aol.com, 805.438.3305.

Workshop Agenda

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

18:00

Pre-Workshop Dinner at Beda's Biergarten

 

Friday, April 26th - ATL Keck Center Building 7, Room 2, California Polytechnic State University

9:00 - 9:10

Opening Remarks - Introduction

Charles Van Steenwyk and Russell Genet - California Polytechnic State University

 

9:30

CubeSats and SmallSats Astrophysics

Michael Garcia - NASA Science Mission Directorate

 

10:15

Optical Communications for CubeSats

Tyler Ritz - University of Florida

 

10:45

Break / Snacks

 

11:00

Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics (ASTERIA)

Mary Knapp - MIT

 

11:30

HaloSat X-Ray CubeSat

Daniel LaRocca - University of Iowa

 

12:00

Lunch

 

13:00

Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment

Arika Egan - Colorado University

 

13:30

Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat

Tahina Ramiaramanantsoa - Arizona State University

 

14:00

Cal Poly CubeSat Capabilities

Amelia Greig - California Polytechnic State University

 

14:30

Break / Snacks

 

15:00-15:10

Introduction to USQ and Model-Based Systems Engineering

Alejandro Levi - Univ. S. Queensland INOSE / SSWG

 

15:30

Exploring the Future of CubeSat Astronomy

Charles Van Steenwyk - California Polytechnic State University

 

15:45

Discussion/Workshop

 

16:45

Closing Remarks

Charles Van Steenwyk - California Polytechnic State University

 

18:00

Dinner at Beda's Biergarten - 230 Broad St Ste 130, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

 

Saturday, April 27 

9:00

Breakfast at The Apple Farm

Pasadena California Workshop

AAS Workshop: Modest Aperture Space Telescope Astronomy in the 2020s

Workshop at the 240th meeting of the American Astronomical Society
Saturday/Sunday, June 11/12, 2022, Pasadena, California

Organizers
Russell Genet, Office of Research, California Polytechnic State Univ., russmgenet@aol.com

Michael Garcia, NASA Astrophysics Division, Space Science Directorate, michael.r.garcia@nasa.gov

Paul Scowen, NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, Exoplanets & Stellar Astrophysics Lab, paul.a.scowen@nasa.gov

Duncan Farrah, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, University of Hawaii, dfarrah@hawaii.edu

Rachel Freed, Institute for Student Astronomical Research, r.freed2010@gmail.com

Ivan Altunin, University of California, Berkeley, vaa.cosmonaut@gmail.com

In the 2020s, fully autonomous constellations of mass-produced, modest aperture UV and IR telescopes, could bring to space-based astronomical research many of the same benefits that have been provided by arrays and networks of autonomous ground-based visual-wavelength telescopes. Such constellations would nicely complement the autonomous visual ground telescopes as well as larger space telescopes. These constellations would not only expand the space research opportunities of professional astronomers and their graduate students but, thanks to economies of quantity production and their autonomous operation, could also open up research opportunities for undergraduate students and citizen scientists in a manner similar to what has already occurred with autonomous ground-based systems. Advances in technology, quantity production of components, lower launch costs, and wide-band communications should help create a synergistic balance between large and small telescopes in space similar to what has already been achieved between large and small telescopes on the ground.

ASTERIA, the first CubeSat telescope, has been observing exoplanet transits. Left: Two recent college graduates at JPL obtain hands-on experience with ASTERIA. Right: artist’s conception of ASTERIA in orbit.

Constellations of fully autonomous UV and IR CubeSat telescopes in space could provide time-series photometric and spectroscopic follow-up observations of interesting objects identified by larger space and ground survey telescopes. The few (and expensive) large survey telescopes take discovery “snapshots,” while the numerous (and low cost) smaller ground telescopes (at visual wavelengths) and space telescopes (at UV and IR wavelengths) make follow-up “movies” of interesting objects. Together, these various telescopes could form a synergistic, efficient whole.

The CubeSat Astronomy in the 2020s workshop was held on January 4, 2020, at the American Astronomical Society’s winter meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. The 70+ attendees were a mix of university and NASA scientists, engineers, and commercial company representatives, as well as a sizable contingent of undergraduate and high school published student researchers.

Introductions and overviews launched the first day (Saturday) of the 2022 AAS workshop, followed by a detailed examination of the UV and IR astronomical research programs that autonomous constellations of modest-aperture space telescopes could support and enhance. The final session of the first day will explored potential advances in UV and IR sensor technologies that could extend the wavelength coverage and sensitivity of future telescopes. A workshop banquet is planned for that evening.

 

The second day (Sunday) will began with a detailed consideration of autonomous operation, not only of the spacecraft themselves, but also autonomous scheduling of observations in coordination with other space and ground telescopes, as well as downloading, preprocessing, and distribution of the data. All observations would be archived and made available to the public after an appropriate delay.

 

The workshop then considered the non-astronomical aspects of these constellations of space telescopes—including buses, launch, and communications—with the goal of reducing costs to the point where telescope time will not only be available to professional astronomers and their graduate students but also to undergraduate and high school students as well as citizen scientists for well-planned research projects with published results. Just as highly economical autonomous operation of networks of ground-based telescopes, such as Las Cumbres Observatory and Skynet, has fostered student and citizen science research, economical autonomous constellations of UV and IR CubeSat and SmallSat telescopes should foster student and citizen science research, helping to “democratize” space. The final session will consider how academic, governmental, and industrial organizations could work together to make these space telescope constellations a reality. The final session will be followed by the AAS evening reception.

Sessions


Saturday, June 11, 2022

Introductions and Overviews

UV Science Programs

Lunch

IR Science Programs

Sensor Technology Advances

Workshop Banquet

 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Autonomous Operation

Buses, Launch, and Communications

Lunch

Student and Citizen Science Research

Organizing for the Future

AAS Reception

CubeSat Astronomy in the 2020s

Workshop during the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society
Honolulu, Hawaii, Saturday, January 4, 2020, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Room 301B, Hawaii Convention Center

Organizers

Russell Genet, California Polytechnic State University, 805.438.3305, rgenet@calpoly.edu
Mary Knapp, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 617.715.5563, mkanpp@mit.edu

 

Workshop Synopsis

Thanks to NASA’s support, an increasing number of CubeSat astronomical research telescopes are in orbit or under development. Over the coming decade, CubeSat astronomical research telescopes—thanks to likely advances in technology, commercial quantity production, and lower launch costs—should help create a synergistic balance between large and small space telescopes similar to what has already been achieved between large and small ground-based robotic telescopes.

 

Numerous, low-cost CubeSat telescopes could, for instance, not only enhance research opportunities for professional astronomers and their graduate students, but they could also open up research opportunities to undergraduate and high school students as well as citizen scientists. Technology advances over the next decade could provide totally autonomous CubeSat telescope operation, extend their wavelength coverage to the infrared and soft X-ray, and provide larger apertures.

 

The workshop was organized as four 90-minute sessions: (1) Introduction / Astronomy CubeSats in Orbit, (2) Astronomy CubeSats Under Development, (3) Future Expansion to Student and Citizen Science Research, and (4) Future Advances in CubeSat Telescope Technology. Each session consisted of 15-minute invited PowerPoint talks followed by a 15-minute Panel Discussion / Q&A. Session speakers were the panel members. There was also be two half-hour poster sessions with refreshments.

Agenda

8:30 Session I: Introduction / Astronomy CubeSats in Orbit

The workshop will open with NASA’s summary of the current status and potential future of CubeSats and their larger SmallSats cousins. Astronomy CubeSats currently in orbit will then be described. 

8:30 Russ Genet (Cal Poly) and Mary Knapp (MIT), Call to Order and Announcements
8:40 Kevin Iott, PlaneWave Instruments, Welcome from the Workshop’s Sponsor
8:45 Michael Garcia, Science Mission Directorate NASA Headquarters, NASA Astrophysics CubeSats and SmallSats: Current and Future Prospects
9:00 Vanessa Bailey, Jet Propulsion Lab, Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics (ASTERIA)
9:15 Christopher Moore, Harvard-Smithsonian CfA, The Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer (MinXSS) CubeSats
9:30 Daniel LaRocca, University of Iowa, HaloSat: Searching for a Hot Baryon Gas Galactic Halo
9:45 Panel discussion Q&A / Moderator: Knapp / Panel members: Garcia, Bailey, Moore, and LaRocca

10:00: Morning Poster Discussions (30 minutes with refreshments)

10:30 Session II: Astronomy CubeSats Under Development

The success of ASTERIA and other astronomy CubeSats in orbit has sparked a second generation of astronomy CubeSats currently under development.

10:30 Kevin France, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, The Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE): Exploring Extreme Exoplanets
10:45 Paul Goldsmith, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, COSMMIC - CO Surveyor using an MMIC Low Noise Receiver on a CubeSat
11:00 Paul Scowen, Arizona State University, Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat (SPARCS)
11:15 Mary Knapp, MIT Haystack Observatory, Low-Frequency Radio Observations
11:30 Jeremy Perkins, NASA Goddard SFC, BurstCube: A CubeSat for Gravitational Wave Counterparts
11:45 Panel discussion Q&A / Moderator: Knapp / Panel members: France, Goldsmith, Scowen, and Perkins.

12:00 Lunch (90 minutes)

Session III: Future Expansion to Student and Citizen Science Research

Looking toward a future when astronomy CubeSats will be plentiful, low in cost, and highly capable, we should then be able to extend their use in research from professional astronomers and their graduate students, to undergraduate and high school students as well as citizen scientists.

1:30 Russell Genet, California Polytechnic State University, Robotic Telescopes and Student Research
1:45 Beatrice Millar, Stanford Online High School, Citizen Science with Stanford Online High School
2:00 Rachel Freed, Institute for Student Astronomical Research, Student Astronomical Research - Filling the Void with CubeSats
2:15 Jonathan Arenberg, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Stella Splendida: Building the science and engineering workforce of the 21st Century
2:30 Marc Kuchner, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Building the NASA Citizen Science Community
2:45 Robert Zellem, JPL, and Quinn Perian and Sujay Nair, Stanford Online High School, Exoplanet Transit Timing Initiative
3:00 Panel discussion Q&A / Moderator: Genet / Panel members: Millar, Freed, Arenberg, Kuchner, Zellem, Perian, and Nair

3:15 Afternoon Poster Discussions (30 minutes with refreshments)

3:45 Session IV: Future Advances in CubeSat Telescope Technology

For future constellations of astronomy CubeSats to be affordable, they will need to operate autonomously. Larger apertures and extension of their spectral coverage into the infrared and soft X-rays would increase their scientific value.

3:45 Rashied Amini, Jet Propulsion Lab, Making CubeSats Autonomous - the Easy Way
4:00 Gurmehar Singh, Stanford Online High School, CubeSat Radio Interferometry Space Telescope Array: CRISTA
4:15 Duncan Farrah, University of Hawaii, Extending CubeSat telescopes into the infrared
4:30 David Allred, Brigham Young University, Mirror coatings for EUV and soft X-Ray imaging
4:45 Panel discussion Q&A / Moderator: Genet / Panel members: Amini, Singh, Farrah, Allred, and Sheikh

5:00 Adjourn

Posters

Stanford Online High School Student Posters
Photometric Effec
ts on Astrometry of Close Double Stars, Ryan Caputo, Caroline Wiess, and Kalée Tock
 

Z-Factor: An Escape-Velocity Metric for Assessing the Likelihood of Gravitational Relationship Between Stars, Zach Haarz and Kalée Tock
 

Freshening Exoplanet Transit Midpoints, Quinn Perian, Sujay Nair, and Kalée Tock
 

High-Altitude Ballooning with Stanford Online High School, Kalée Tock
 

Using Machine Learning to Analyze Pulsar Plots, Gurmehar Singh and Beatrice Millar

Other Posters
Understanding the High-Energy Radiation Emission of Low-Mass Stars: Constructing Stellar Models Using SPARCS Photometry, Sarah Peacock (1), Travis Barman (2), Evgenya Shkolnik (3), David Ardila (4), Matthew Beasley (5), Judd Bowmane (3), Johnathan Gamaunt (3), Dawn Gregory (6), Valentin Ivanitski (6), Daniel Jacobs (3), Logan Jensen (3), April Jewell (4), Joe Llama (7), Victoria Meadows (8), Shouleh Nikzad (9), Mary Osmond Juelfse (3), Tahina Ramiaramanantsoa (3), Paul Scowen (3), Nathaniel Struebele (3), Mark Swain (4)
(1) University of Arizona, (2) Lunar and Planetary Lab, University of Arizona, (3) Arizona State University, (4) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, (5) Southwest Research Institute, (6) AZ Space Technologies, (7) Lowell Observatory, (8) University of Washington

Battery-Powered In-Space Reflective Coating Technology, David Sheikh, ZeCoat Corporation

Stanford Online High School Students Giving Presentations

Stanford Online High School students giving presentations (left to right):

Beatrice Millar, Elias Koubaa, Gurmehar Singh, Quinn Perian, and Sujay Nair

University of Hawaii Undergraduate Student Participants

From left to right:

Keenan Lee, Spencer Young, Kevin Williams, and Jami Stout

Panels

1. Astronomy CubeSats in Orbit (left to right):

Michael Garcia, Vanessa Bailey, Daniel LaRocca, and Christopher Moore

2. Astronomy CubeSats Under Development (left to right):

Paul Goldsmith, Paul Scowen, Kevin France, and Jeremy Perkins

3. Future Expansion to Student and Citizen Science Research (left to right):

Beatrice Millar, Rachel Freed, Sujay Nair, Quinn Perian, Robert Zellem, Mark Kuchner, and Jonathan Arenberg

4. Future Advances in CubeSat Telescope Technology (left to right):

Gurmehar Singh, Duncan Farrah, Rashied Amini, and David Allred

Student Space Telescope Network 

 

Conceptual Study 2018

Alex Johnson, Charles Van Steenwyk, and Russell Genet California Polytechnic State University David Rowe PlaneWave Instruments

Astro2020: Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics, APC white papers, no. 51 Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, Vol. 51, Issue 7, id. 51 (2019)

Endorsers


Rashied Amini, Jet Propulsion Labroratory
David Ardila, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Lorraine Fesq, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Kyle Hughes, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Evgenya Shkolnik, Arizona State University

Authors & Co-Authors

Russell Genet, California Polytechnic State University

Jonathan Arenberg, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems

Howard Banich, Alt-Az Initiative

Mel Bartels, Alt-Az Initiative

Richard Berry, Alt-Az Initiative

Pat Boyce, Boyce Research Initiatives and Education Foundation

Rebecca Chamberlin, The Evergreen State College

Ralph Emerson, PlaneWave Instruments

Christopher Estrada, Institute for Student Astronomical Research

Reed Estrada, Northrop Aviation

Rachel Freed, Institute for Student Astronomical Research

Cheryl Genet, Cuesta College

Edward Gomez, Las Cumbres Observatory

Dan Gray, Sidereal Technology

Joe Haberman, PlaneWave Instruments

Richard Harshaw, Brilliant Sky Observatory

Gregory Henry, Tennessee State University

Alex Johnson, California Polytechnic State University

Jolyon Johnson, Newton High School

Richard Hedrick, PlaneWave Instruments

Greg Jones, Alt-Az Initiative

John Kenney, Concordia University

Mary Knapp, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Creon Levit, Planet Labs

Tong Lui, Hubble Optics

David Rowe, PlaneWave Instruments

John Ridgely, California Polytechnic State University

Jenny Shih, University of Hawaii Maui College

Thomas Smith, Dark Ridge Observatory

Kalee Tock, Stanford Online High School

Charles Van Steenwyk, California Polytechnic State University

Vera Wallen, Education Consultant

Abstract

 

A 2020s CubeSat astronomical telescope revolution could evolve small space telescopes from their current nascent state, to becoming a major contributor to astronomical research,similar to the evolution of small ground telescopes. The same inclusive community of practice facilitated processthat resulted in small ground telescopes becoming full research partners could be emulated in the development of small space telescopes. The ground-breaking ASTERIA, SPARCS, and CUTE CubeSat telescopes are pointing the way. Four programs could enhance this evolutionary process:

(1) developing a CubeSat autonomous telescope constellation for astronomical research,

(2) advancing CubeSat telescope technology,

(3) encouraging CubeSat telescope one-offs, kits, and commercial ventures, and

(4) nurturing an inclusive and supportive CubeSat telescope community of practice. By the end of the decade, CubeSat telescopes could open up the direct use of space telescopes for astronomical research to a large number of professional astronomers, citizen scientists, and students.

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