Laser CubeSats Might Keep Space Telescopes Focused By Acting Like Artificial Stars

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NASA is planning to send increasingly larger space telescopes over the next 20 years, so keeping them focused on their targets might be challenging for the US space agency, especially since they want to keep them in space for a long time. New research carried out by MIT scientists came up with a solution to that. According to the researchers, laser CubeSats might keep space telescopes focused by acting like artificial stars.

NASA’s Hubble, for example, launched in space in 1990 with a 2.4-m (8-ft) mirror. It returned hundreds of impressive images and so many readings on distant space objects that would keep scientists busy for tens of years. However, James Webb Space Telescope would “eclipse” Hubble with its 6.5-m (21-ft) mirror made of 18 hexagonal segments. Furthermore, next-gen space telescopes would boast even larger mirrors, of more than 15-m wide.

As the space telescopes are getting more massive than they are today, they would be able to probe deep space objects and exoplanets, but as they get bigger, focusing on targets becomes challenging.

Laser CubeSats Might Keep Space Telescopes Focused By Acting Like Artificial Stars

Thanks to MIT researchers, the US space agency might have a solution to help large space telescope aim to their deep space targets. According to a new study, laser CubeSats might keep space telescopes focused by acting like artificial stars.

According to the MIT scientists, by placing CubeSats tens of miles into space, space telescope can aim to deep space objects by taking those tiny satellites’ laser beams as a reference. Thus, NASA might also reduce the costs of developing sophisticated aiming technologies or launching costly spacecraft that would perform the same tasks as laser CubeSats.

“Now we’re analyzing existing propulsion systems and figuring out the optimal way to do this, and how many spacecraft we’d want leapfrogging each other in space. Ultimately, we think this is a way to bring down the cost of these large, segmented space telescopes,” explained Ewan Douglas from the MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.


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