2017.B.1.2. Skyhopper: The first infrared space telescope on a CubeSat


Jochen Greiner (1)
Michele Trenti (2)
Sylvio Klose (3)

  1. Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Germany
  2. Melbourne University, Australia
  3. Thueringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg, Germany




near-infrared telescope; rapid slewing


Space telescopes, not affected by the blurring and absorption of Earth’s atmosphere, have been key drivers of progress for modern astronomy. While space observations are carried out over the whole electromagnetic spectrum, imaging at infrared wavelengths, which is critically needed for a wide range of investigations, is one of the areas where the gain compared to ground is maximal. Orbiting telescopes, large or small, have been so far confined to complex missions run by government agencies. However, thanks to dramatic technological improvements, CubeSats represent a new opportunity to break the price and performance curve of traditional space missions, while retaining attractiveness as cutting-edge research platforms. This presentation will describe the SkyHopper project, the first CubeSat with a near-infrared telescope. The prime scientific goals are the discovery of potentially habitable Earth-size exoplanets transiting in front of nearby cool stars, and the identification of high-redshift Gamma Ray Bursts (GRB) afterglows. For the GRB science, SkyHopper, capable of rapidly repointing to the target upon real-time GRB alerts, would follow-up about 98% of the Swift and/or SVOM afterglows, measure photometric redshifts with >80% success via a novel 4-channel beam-splitter, and identify 4-6 GRBs at redshift z>5 per year (doubling in two years the existing 20-yr sample). While not planned as an interplanetary CubeSat, the planned agility of Skyhopper and a cooled near-infrared telescope provide challenges which might be of interest to this conference audience.


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