Proposals for mini-programs should be no more than two pages in

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Keck Institute for Space Studies Study Program Proposal
Name of Study Program: Mini Satellites: An Astronomical Revolution
Date: 20 January 2010
Name of Caltech Campus Co-Lead:
Name of JPL Co-Lead:
Name of External Co-Lead:
S. R. Kulkarni
D. Jones
E. Waxman, Israel
Estimated Budget for Study Program: $191,429
Description of the goals of this Study Program:
Astronomy is in the midst of a golden period. Advances have come from diverse
approaches and, in particular, many discoveries have come from small
telescopes. Observations with small (to very small) telescopes led to: first planet
around a normal star (51 Pegasi), the first brown dwarf (Gliese 229B), the entire
field of micro-lensing and measurement of radius of extra-solar. Such discoveries
motivate us to consider a program of astronomical investigation but based on
mini satellites (defined as those with mass less than 100 kg).
Here, we propose a study program that will bring together astronomers and
technologists. Together the group will (1) identify high impact astronomical
projects which can be undertaken by mini satellites and (2) investigate the
feasibility that the goals can be met by mini satellites.
Our preliminary study and analysis indicate a diverse portfolio of astronomical
topics (X-ray and UV shock breakout of supernovae, identifying electromagnetic
counterparts of LIGO events, investigating the low frequency cosmos, precision
photometry-on-demand for extra-solar planet studies) that are capable of being
carried out by mini satellites.
The proposed program is timely since access to space, particularly for small
payloads, has become easier, thanks to the entry of new space faring countries
and, soon, commercial ventures. Miniaturization of sub-systems (e.g. attitude),
inexpensive communication systems, and rapid improvements in sensor
technology makes it possible to design and build small but powerful satellites at
affordable costs.
Rationale of why the study program has the potential to generate
innovative new ideas with significant promise to impact the way that future
space missions are carried out:
There are two reasons why we are the cusp of the era of mini satellites. In the
US and Europe the focus in astronomical satellites is decisively tilted towards
flagship enterprises (e.g JWST). These missions are so expensive that mini
satellites become attractive on financial grounds. Elsewhere (e.g.
Proposals for study programs should be no more than four pages in length. All proposal information must
be included in the four-page primary proposal (Part 1) plus the budget and additional information template
(Part 2).
Keck Institute for Space Studies Study Program Proposal
India/ASTROSAT, China/SVOM, Germany-Russia/RXG, Russia/RadioAstron,
Japan/ASTRO series) the situation is not very different. These large missions
have long gestation periods and are locked in with technology of the past. Thus
there are opportunities for nimble missions. Specifically, we argue (see above)
that smaller missions which usually address only one or two problems—if
chosen wisely—can have a major impact. However, the key is to have frequent
access to space and that demands payloads with low mass. Frequent access
allow a mission to take advantage of the latest advances in sensor technology.
Finally, frequent launches means that a specialized mission can be built do
address a specific astronomical topic that suddenly becomes interesting (and
discussed in the paragraph below).
Specific technologies or recent scientific developments that make a
compelling case that a major study should be undertaken at this time:
We give three examples of how progress in astronomy drives new missions. The
discovery of the diversity of the architecture of planetary systems (hot Jupiters,
planets around the very abundant M dwarfs) has suddenly generated a demand
for precision photometry both at optical and near-IR wavelengths. The imminent
completion of advanced LIGO makes it imperative that we have the means to
identify electro-magnetic counterparts to LIGO events. Finally, the unexpected
discovery of up-scattered X-ray emission during shock breakout of a supernovae
has re-ignited interest in this topic. Each one of these topics can be addressed by
a mini-satellite mission. However, technical feasibility needs to be worked out
(and this is the main rationale for the proposed study).
Technological advances also can and have spurred mini satellites. For example,
the availability of an in-expensive attitude system motivated the Canadian minisatellite MOST. Advances by radio astronomers (arrays of small diameter
telescopes) now makes it possible to have larger data rates from satellites and
so one can now contemplate sending images instead of small postage size
stamps (e.g. Kepler mission). This opens up possibilities of a combined spaceground survey (e.g. a mini-satellite UV survey paired with a ground based facility
with a similar field-of-view surveys but in the optical; such a mission is ideal to
study cosmic explosions and supernovae).
Description of how the program will benefit JPL-Campus and Caltechexternal collaborations and interactions:
The next phase of the proposed program would be to use the compelling “Vision
and Implementation” book (the final and primary output of this study) to persuade
funding agencies (in the US and elsewhere) to fund several missions. As initial
participants, astronomers at Caltech and JPL would be scientifically rewarded
(even if the mission is funded and flown by one of the partner countries). The
proposed program takes advantage of the natural strengths of campus and JPL
and as such will naturally promote deeper intellectual connections.
Proposals for study programs should be no more than four pages in length. All proposal information must
be included in the four-page primary proposal (Part 1) plus the budget and additional information template
(Part 2).
Keck Institute for Space Studies Study Program Proposal
Strength of Study Program team:
The proposed study team is composed of astronomers and space technologists
from Caltech, JPL, Israel, Canada and India. A sub-group has already been in
conversing on possible missions and synthesizing the technical experience and
astronomical returns of astronomical mini satellites (CHIPSAT, MOST). We have
also had informal contacts with space agencies in Israel, India and Canada (and
been encouraged by our discussions). These countries are very interested in
mini satellites and hence their inclusion in this effort. The activities of this group
can be found at http://www.astro.caltech.edu/~srk/MiniSat/Main.html. This is a
live URL (updated after every tele-conference of the group). We urge the
reviewers to look at this web site.
The astronomers cover the entire gamut of proposed science topics:
Gravitational astronomy (Phinney, Caltech); Low frequency radio astronomy (D.
Jones, JPL); X-ray astronomy (Kaspi, McGill; Paul, India); extra-solar planets
(Beichman, IPAC); supernovae and surveys (Gal-Yam, Israel; Maoz, Israel) and
theory (Phinney; Waxman, Israel). Next, C. Duncan, L. Herring and H. Goldberg
(all JPL/CUBESAT); Harrison (Caltech/NuSTAR); J. Murthy (India/TAUVEX); D.
Bhattacharya (India/ASTROSAT); and Paul (India/ASTROSAT) are active in
either technology or space missions (or both). Sensors are a critical part of the
proposed program (and covered by P. Goldsmith/JPL).
Finally, the Principal Investigator, Kulkarni has a track record of organizing large
international efforts—from dream phase to execution (cf. GRB effort, the Palomar
Transient Factory). Separately, we have already begun informal discussions with
Prof Peligrino who is very interested in the general area of small satellites.
Overview of Study Program structure:
I. Early April 2010: A one week school on mini satellite capabilities and
technology, to inform the Study Team and other interested parties about what is
and is not possible in "off the shelf" mini-sat technology: e.g. pointing, slewing,
data and telemetry, telescope size, detector area, power consumption. It will also
include a day on "lessons learned" from the scientific and technological
developers of previous astronomical minisats (e.g. the US ChipSat, Canadian
MOST and Austria BRITE, Israeli-Indian TAUVEX) and related earth-imaging
minisatellites (UK QinetQ/Surrey's TopSat, and US SpaceDev's TacSat-2,
Indian/Israeli IMS-1), and the capabilities of standardized expandable micro and
minisat buses (from the Stanford/JPL/Toronto Cubesat community up to
SpaceDev and IAI offerings).
This will be open not just to the study team, but to all interested students,
astronomers and NASA/JPL personnel. Initial surveys show very wide outside
interest. We would also use this meeting as an opportunity to recruit the four
SURF students for activity 4. One of the two proposed public lectures (J.
Mathews, PI of MOST) would be held during this meeting.
Proposals for study programs should be no more than four pages in length. All proposal information must
be included in the four-page primary proposal (Part 1) plus the budget and additional information template
(Part 2).
Keck Institute for Space Studies Study Program Proposal
II. Late April/Early May: A science workshop on astronomical mini satellites
discussing opportunities, rationale, capabilities. This workshop (at Rehovat,
Israel) is already separately funded by the Weizmann Institute and Israeli
aerospace and will be open to all Study Team members.
III. Early June:
A two and half day Study Team kickoff meeting to present and critique initial
rough concepts. Day 1 would be devoted to technology issues of the concepts,
and Day 2 to the science motivation and capabilities. Day 3 would summarize
the critiques and suggested modifications, in preparation for the summer in-depth
studies (item IV). The second proposed public lecture [Victoria Kaspi
(Distinguished Astronomer) and/or Dan Maoz (Chambliss Awardee)] would be
held during this meeting.
IV. June-August:
A series of four wavelength-specific studies lasting approximately one month
each, to design specific mission concepts in radio, optical/near IR, UV and X-ray.
During these, we would bring together at KISS visiting (approximately 6 per
wavelength) and local Study Team members including astronomers,
technologists, JPL, NASA and international space center personnel, industrial
representatives, graduate students, and four JPL SURF students. During each
one-month session, the astronomers, technologists and students would work
intensively to compare and develop innovative mini-sat mission concepts to
approximately the Team-X level.
V. October:
A two and half day Study Team synthesis meeting during which four detailed
mission concepts developed over the summer would be presented and critiqued.
As in the preliminary June meeting, each mission would be critiqued from both
the technology and science points of view. In the final day, assignments for
writing and resolving remaining issues would be agreed.
VI. December:
Delivery of a book-length technical report describing the science and technology
of the mission concepts, ready to carry to NASA Centers, and US, Canadian,
Israeli and Indian funding agencies in response to announcements of
opportunity.
Description of opportunities for junior members of the community to
participate (including involvement of graduate students and postdoctoral
scholars):
See I and IV above.
Expected Date for delivery of Final Report to KISS:
December 2010 (see VI above).
Proposals for study programs should be no more than four pages in length. All proposal information must
be included in the four-page primary proposal (Part 1) plus the budget and additional information template
(Part 2).
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