Monday, February 25, 2013

World's Smallest Space Telescopes Launching Monday

Cordell Grant putting the finishing touches to the first BRITE satellite at UTIAS-SFL. The tiny nanosatellite, designed to study the brightest stars in the night sky, is one of seven spacecraft launching on India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C20 mission on Feb. 25, 2013.CREDIT: University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies 

Two tiny satellites billed as the world's smallest space telescopes will launch into orbit Monday (Feb. 25) on a mission to study the brightest stars in the night sky.

The Bright Target Explorer (BRITE) nanosatellites look like little cubes and will blast off atop an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) at 7:20 a.m. EST (1220 GMT) on Monday from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India.

While tiny nanosatellites have launched into space before, they have been mainly used to study Earth or test new spaceflight technologies, but the BRITE satellites will be the first to peer into the cosmos, their builders say. The diminutive spacecraft are less than 8 inches (20 centimeters) wide and weigh less than 15.5 pounds (7 kilograms). Once in orbit, they are expeted to observe the brightest stars (from Earth's perspective), including those that make up well-known constellations like Orion, the Hunter.

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