Skip Navigation
Space Technology Research Grants

A Compact, High-Precision Optical Payload Enabling Earth-Sized Exoplanet Detection Using Nanosatellites

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

A Compact, High-Precision Optical Payload Enabling Earth-Sized Exoplanet Detection Using Nanosatellites
The objective of the proposed research program is to design, build, test, and fly a compact, high-precision optical payload that is compatible with nanosatellite platforms. Nanosatellites (i.e. spacecraft weighing less than approximately 10 kg) hold the promise of low-cost access to space and more rapid development. On the other hand, nanosatellites impose severe mass, volume, and power constraints that make cutting-edge science difficult without additional technology development. Such a technology development is the subject of this proposal, encompassing optical design, integrated simulation, and model-based systems engineering. The proposed payload would fly as part of ExoplanetSat, a 3U CubeSat space telescope designed to detect transiting Earth-size exoplanets bright, Sun-like stars. Specific activities to be performed as part of this program are the development of a composite focal plane array combining CMOS and CCD imaging sensors for guide star tracking and science measurements, respectively; optimizing the sensor for high performance in the absence of active thermal control; developing a custom lens to serve as the optical telescope element; and creating a new tool that facilitates model-based systems engineering (MBSE) for small satellites. This work is significant to NASA in that the proposed technology development will allow low-cost platforms (e.g. CubeSats) to conduct meaningful science within their strict size, mass, and power constraints. The intended result is a game-changing shift wherein nanosatellites are able to make breakthrough discoveries for a fraction of the cost of traditional space missions. More »

Anticipated Benefits

Primary U.S. Work Locations and Key Partners

Project Library

Share this Project

Organizational Responsibility

Project Management

Project Duration

Technology Maturity (TRL)

Technology Areas

Light bulb

Suggest an Edit

Recommend changes and additions to this project record.