Student-Built Satellite Telescope Prepares for Space

Caltech News tagged with “astronomy + exoplanets + JPL + planetary_science”

After nine years, a student-designed-and-built satellite is being readied for launch into orbit, where it will be a test bed for a new type of space telescope that assembles itself in flight from multiple components.With telescopes, bigger is better: the larger their primary mirror, the more light they can capture and the better the images they can create. Currently, however, space telescopes are limited in size and must be folded up to fit inside the rockets that launch them into space. Hubble is 2.4 meters in diameter, for instance, and the James Webb Space Telescope will be 6.5 meters in diameter when it launches in 2021. To build a telescope that exceeds 10 meters, scientists and engineers will need to develop new, modular designs that can be sent to space in multiple pieces—even on multiple rockets.In 2008, a series of workshops at the Keck Institute of Space Studies (KISS) at Caltech inspired a low-cost mission to demonstrate the feasibility of sending a telescope to space in pieces and having it assemble itself once in orbit.That telescope, which came to be known as AAReST (Autonomous Assembly of a Reconfigurable Space Telescope), was designed and built in large part by students in Caltech’s Ae 105 Aerospace Engineering class, working in collaboration with the Surrey Space Centre in England and the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology. Over the years, these students planned the mission and designed the telescope. With the spacecraft nearly complete, 2018 marks the conclusion of the AAReST project for the Ae 105 students. The AAReST satellite is scheduled to be launched on an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) rocket in 2019. Ae 105 is a yearlong class taught by JPL instructors Oscar Alvarez-Salazar, Andy Klesh, Scott Ploen, and Dan Scharf. At Caltech, aerospace engineer Sergio Pellegrino is AAReST’s campus coordinator and JPL’s John Baker is its project manager. Over the past near decade, the …

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