4 years ago

Short life and abrupt death of PicSat, a small 3U CubeSat dreaming of exoplanet detection.

Mathias Nowak, Sylvestre Lacour, Antoine Crouzier, Lester David, Vincent Lapeyrère, Guillaume Schworer

PicSat was a three unit CubeSat (measuring 30 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm) which was developed to monitor the beta Pictoris system. The main science objective was the detection of a possible transit of the giant planet beta Pictoris b's Hill sphere. Secondary objectives included studying the circumstellar disk, and detecting exocomets in the visible band. The mission also had a technical objective: demonstrate our ability to inject starlight in a single mode fiber, on a small satellite platform. To answer all those objectives, a dedicated opto-mechanical payload was built, and integrated in a commercial 3U platform, along with a commercial ADCS (Attitude Determination and Control System). The satellite successfully reached Low Earth Orbit on the PSLV-C40 rocket, on January, 12, 2018. Unfortunately, on March, 20, 2018, after 10 weeks of operations, the satellite fell silent, and the mission came to an early end. Furthermore, due to a failure of the ADCS, the satellite never actually pointed toward its target star during the 10 weeks of operations. In this paper, we report on the PicSat mission development process, and on the reasons why it did not deliver any useful astronomical data.

Publisher URL: http://arxiv.org/abs/1901.02677

DOI: arXiv:1901.02677v1

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