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Proceedings Paper

Miniature Satellite Technology Capabilities For Space Astronomy
Author(s): Rick Fleeter
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Paper Abstract

The confluence of microelectronics developments, Space Shuttle and expendable launch vehicle maturation and emergence of miniature satellite technology (MST) is providing a new resource for astronomy research. A small, low cost satellite can provide significant on orbit data collection and transmission capability on a budget and time scale accessible to a diverse community of researchers. but like any other complex research tool careful application of MST is critical to obtaining good results. Small satellite capabilities in electric power, pointing, overall size and weight, orbit adjustment, downlink data rate and other parameters are limited compared with today's large scale systems (though in many cases they are comparable to or exceed large systems of a decade or two ago). However, the convenience and low cost of typical MST ground facilities provide enhanced resource accessibility compared to conventional approaches. Proliferation of ground stations and their operation at the research institution or observation site by research team members are features easily integrated within the MST approach. To introduce the potential of MST, missions are treated which most easily adapt to the small satellite environment. Design to operational requirements and close integration of payload and bus are fundamental to the MST approach. A summary of typical MST design capabilities and tradeoffs illustrates the current state of the art of MST application in astronomy. Construction of the small satellite is moot without attention to launch opportunities and costs. Here too properly conceived implementation of MST is important in securing the earliest, lowest cost, most dependable launch opportunity. the launch vehicle flexibility inherent to small satellites can be maximized by engineering compatibility to the largest number of potential launch vehicles. The capabilities, costs and availability of several launch options are assayed. With the current relative scarcity of launch opportunities MST payloads are increasingly appealing compared with conventional, larger systems which demand a larger share of the available orbit insertion resource.

Paper Details

Date Published: 21 December 1988
PDF: 15 pages
Proc. SPIE 0982, X-Ray Instrumentation in Astronomy II, (21 December 1988); doi: 10.1117/12.948715
Show Author Affiliations
Rick Fleeter, Defense Systems Inc (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 0982:
X-Ray Instrumentation in Astronomy II
Leon Golub, Editor(s)

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