Extending Our View of the Solar System
The Optimast-SCI (Structurally Connected Interferometer) satellite employs extended structure manufacturing technology, validated in the Archinaut Development Program, to enable the deployment of an 10-50 meter optical boom interferometer from a smallsat bus. Optimast-SCI relies on autonomous, robotic in-space manufacturing and assembly to create a beam interferometer with high field resolution on an affordable smallsat platform.
Future missions for detecting and characterizing new worlds and faint distant objects require much larger effective apertures than the current generation of space telescopes. Terrestrial telescopes also have large amounts of distortion that blur the viewing of these objects rendering them unusable for in-depth analysis. In-space manufacturing using space-rated polymers provides mission-optimized structural baselines for infrared interferometry missions that are lower in mass and complexity than traditional hinged trusses or deployable booms.
This use of autonomous manufacturing and assembly enables much larger, effective apertures as compared to conventional deployables. The competitive advantage of the Optimast-SCI system is that it provides an affordable approach to space-based optical interferometry that fits within existing mission classes and small satellite mission budgets. Traditional deployable structures are ultimately limited by both the volumetric packing factors for launch and the parasitic mass added by deployment and traverse mechanisms.
Range of Applications
Low Earth Orbit - High-resolution
(10-cm GSD) coverage
- Ship and surface vehicle traffic monitoring
- Commodities analysis
- Humanitarian and disaster relief tasking
- Riparian zone (wooded areas along riverbanks) and wetland monitoring
- Detecting land cover for urban planning
- Oil reserve monitoring
- Comets and low surface brightness galaxies can be resolved by increasing the size and number of the apertures on future variants of Optimast-SCI.
- Exoplanets, white dwarfs, and distant galaxies can be directly detected by Optimast-SCI
- Size and chemical compositions can be determined with larger aperture variants
GEO – Persistent, wide-area
(1-m GSD) coverage
- Detecting natural disasters
- Active remote sensing of large-scale traffic
- Characterization of large weather systems
Interferometry Satellite Advantages
- Modular internal optics bench developed with Lowell Observatory
- Can tilt array to point at target and avoid long delay lines required for off-axis observations
- Can observe continuously over long time periods (days to weeks)
- High field resolution
- Can observe at wavelengths not accessible from the ground
- Affordable smallsat platform
- The potential for very long baselines
- Reconfigurations of array are relatively easy
- More stable environment enables easier alignment and calibration
- No atmosphere, no turbulence or windshake, longer integrations