UniBRITE Achieves Arcminute-Level Fine Pointing for First of its Kind Space Astronomy Mission
The Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies announced today that it had accomplished a major milestone in high-performance nanosatellite missions. UniBRITE, one of six satellites that are part of BRIght Target Explorer (BRITE) Constellation, a space astronomy constellation of 7-kg nanosatellites each carrying 3-cm aperture optical telescopes, was placed into fine pointing mode. The satellite was able to achieve a pointing accuracy of a few arcminutes with a promise of further fine tuning that will lead to around one-arcminute performance in the near future (one arcminute is 1/60th of a degree). “This is a milestone achievement for such a small satellite, and demonstrates that the Space Flight Laboratory is able to deliver high performance nanosatellite missions for challenging science objectives that were not previously achievable on platforms this small,” says Dr. Robert E. Zee, Director of SFL. “This is a first for nanosatellites. New barriers have been broken that will open the door to very demanding missions in the future that will require high accuracy attitude control.”
The BRITE mission accomplishes its stellar asteroseismology objectives by measuring brightness oscillations in the most luminous stars in our galaxy. These stars are responsible for the production of heavy elements – the stuff that humans and our planet are made of. The achievement of fine pointing will enable science team members from around the world to gather stellar photometry data to further never-before-accomplished astronomy research from space.