STARS - A Deployable CubeSat Telescope Superstructure for Near Earth Asteroid Detection and Planetary Defense

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Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) detection is crucial due to the potential threats and opportunities these celestial bodies present. Identifying and tracking NEAs is vital for planetary defense. While catastrophic asteroid impacts are rare, their severe consequences necessitate early detection. This allows scientists to assess threats and develop strategies for deflection or mitigation, protecting life and property on Earth. Additionally, NEA detection is essential for scientific exploration and space resource utilization. These asteroids offer insights into the early solar system and planetary formation, enhancing our understanding of life’s origins. Some NEAs contain valuable resources like metals, water, and minerals, opening opportunities for space mining and supporting sustainable space exploration. NEA detection also aids space situational awareness, preventing collisions with satellites, space probes, and the International Space Station (ISS), thus improving space traffic management. This global effort fosters international collaboration among space agencies, observatories, and research institutions, enhancing our understanding of NEAs and promoting broader space exploration cooperation. Information from NEA detection informs policy decisions on planetary defense, space exploration, and resource utilization, guiding governments and space agencies in resource allocation and policy formulation.

We propose the development of STARS - Spaceborne Telescope for Asteroid Research and Survey, a space-based observation station constructed in orbit from standardized telescope payloads packaged within CubeSats. A network of telescope units is meticulously arranged and configured to provide comprehensive night sky coverage and multi-spectrum surveying. The optical axes are normal to a main truss and rotation axis, an offset angle between telescopes assures rapid and repetitive revisiting of observed objects. These include repetitive docking and undocking capabilities to construct the multi-agent space station in orbit. The optical telescopes are comparable in performance to previous small satellite missions. Yet, they are packaged into a standard 16U CubeSat platform to reduce the cost to orbit of space station units, enhancing the overall modularity and reconfiguration for a multi-mission approach. When packaged the optical train occupies 8 CubeSat units, after deployment of optics and baffles a standard Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope (SCT) is constructed.

Operating across multiple wavelengths, including infrared and visible light, the station employs spectroscopy for detailed analysis of detected asteroids. The station features robust real-time data processing and automated alert systems to promptly notify authorities and the scientific community about newly detected NEAs. Establishing collaborative networks with international observatories and space agencies fosters data sharing and coordination, amplifying global NEA detection efforts. Public outreach programs and citizen science initiatives raise awareness and encourage public participation in space-related activities. Continuous monitoring capabilities and redundancy measures ensure uninterrupted NEA detection. This comprehensive system not only enhances planetary defense but also advances scientific exploration and space-related technologies. Deploying this concept in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) allows for a focused examination of system functionality and performance. Initial LEO deployment serves as a precursor for potential expansions into Cislunar and Deep space domains, addressing unique challenges and ensuring the autonomous observation station meets immediate NEA detection demands while laying the groundwork for broader applications.

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  • ABOUT THE ENTRANT

  • Name:
    Athip Thirupathi Raj
  • Type of entry:
    team
    Team members:
    • Adrien Bouskela
    • Jekan Thangavelautham
  • Patent status:
    patented