This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

28 June 2012

B612 Foundation's Sentinel Private Space Telescope Announcement

The B612 Foundation has updated their website in preparation for their announcement of their private Space Telescope project. Their web page has multiple updates, including a press kit with an overview presentation and data sheet.

- Features of their telescope:
• Most capable NEO detection system in operation
• 200 deg anti-sun Field of Regard, with a 2×5.5 deg Field of View at any point in time: scans 165 square degrees per hour looking for moving objects
• Precise pointing accuracy to sub-pixel resolution for imaging revisit, using the detector fine steering capability
• Designed for highly autonomous, reliable operation requiring only weekly ground contact
• Designed for 5.5 years of surveying operations. Actively cooled to 40k using a Ball Aerospace two-stage, closed-cycle Stirling-cycle cryocooler
• Ability to follow-up on objects of interest

More information on their telescope specifications:
- Launch Information: 2017-2018 with multiple opportunities, Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9, Direct ascent into interplanetary trajectory
- Orbit: 0.6 by 0.8 AU Venus-like elliptical orbit
- Mission Life: 5.5 years, Design and consumables support multi-year mission extension
- Spacecraft Size, Mass and Power: 7.7 m (25.4 ft) tall x 3.2 m (10.5 ft) across; 1,500 kg (3,300 Ibs), 2.0 kW solar array, 24 Ahr battery
- Instrument: 2.0 kW solar array, 24 Ahr battery , 50 cm telescope, 5-10.4 mm wavelength range, HgCdTe detectors cooled to 40 K, 24 million pixels, Field of View: 11 deg2, Sky Coverage Rate: 165 square degrees per hour
- Attitude Determination and Control: 3-axis stabilized, Actuators: reaction wheels, thrusters, Sensors: Star trackers, IMU,  Astrometric Accuracy: 0.2 arc seconds, Angular Velocity Accuracy: 4.5 arcseconds per hour
- Onboard storage: 96 GB
- Communications: Small Deep Space Transponder, Science Downlink: 1.5 meter high-gain antenna,Command and Telemetry: Medium-and low-gain antenna

Some highlights from new articles (Alan Boyle at MSNBC, preceding the B612 Foundation announcement on their private asteroid telescope...

To track more asteroids, the foundation proposes launching the Sentinel Space Telescope, a 1.5-ton, 25-foot-tall (7.7-meter-tall) observatory that draws upon design features from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and Kepler planet-hunting probe. Ball Aerospace was involved in both those earlier space projects, and would be the prime contractor for the Sentinel.

The craft would carry a 20-inch (50-centimeter) telescope with an infrared imager.

Lu said the telescope's design has been nearly completed under the leadership of mission director Harold Reitsema, an astronomer who recently retired from Ball Aerospace. Negotiations are currently under way with Ball Aerospace on a  fixed-price contract to build the Sentinel, Lu said. He declined to be specific on the mission cost because of those negotiations.

The mission plan calls for the craft to be launched on a Falcon 9 into a slightly elliptical orbit between Earth and Venus.

From that vantage point, the Sentinel could look out toward the vicinity of Earth's orbit with the sun behind it — which would be ideal for spotting space rocks like 2012 LZ1. Image data would be beamed down to NASA's Deep Space Network and passed along to the mission's data operations center at the Laboratory for Space Physics in Boulder, Colo. Newly identified asteroids would be reported to the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, in accordance with existing procedures, and the orbital data would be analyzed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to assess potential hazards.

The B612 Foundation said it signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA on June 19 in support of the mission. The foundation has also been in contact with SpaceX's engineers to discuss technical details for the anticipated launch, Lu said.

Lu pointed out that the estimated cost of the mission, amounting to a few hundred million dollars, was comparable to the cost of building a performing arts center, a museum, or a planetarium like the one where today's briefing was being held.

Link: MSNBC Article

Link: Article
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