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).