Astronomers from Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) have developed a new low-cost star sensor, which is ready for launch on the PSLV’s stage-4 orbital platform to be used for CubeSats and other small satellite missions. This instrument, called Starberry-Sense, is built using off-the-shelf components, making it easy to customize for multiple requirements.
The sensor utilizes a raspberry Pi as its brain, making it much cheaper than commercially available star sensors, which can cost up to 10 times more than Starberry-Sense. The device also successfully underwent vibration and thermal vacuum tests that prove its suitability for space launch and operations. Furthermore, the team coupled some extremely optimized algorithms with a raspberry Pi to create a potent star sensor.
The collaboration between the IIA, other collaborators, and their use of commercially available components made an instrument that is affordable for CubeSats and other small satellites, greatly increasing their capabilities. Bharat Chandra, a PhD student at the IIA and author of the research published in the Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems said, “We could demonstrate that instruments built from easily available components can be qualified for space.”
Other collaborators include Mayuresh Sarpotdar, former IIA PhD working with Dhruva Space; Richa Rai, a post- doctoral fellow at the National Institute for Nuclear Physics, Trieste, Italy; Rekhesh Mohan, Scientist D, IIA; Joice Mathew, instrumentation scientist at Australian National University (ANU); Margarita Safonova, IIA; and Jayant Murthy, retired senior professor, IIA.
The Indian Institute of Astrophysics is an autonomous institution of the Department of Science and Technology, located in Hoskote, Bengaluru. The IAI provides research and teaching in astronomy and astrophysics and works with Indian universities, other institutions of higher learning, research laboratories and related industries. The Institute also fosters national and international collaborations in astronomical research, instrumentation and development of space-related technology.
Bharat Chandra has been an integral part of the team that designed Starberry-Sense. He is an M.Tech-PhD student in Astronomical Instrumentation at IIA and currently pursues his research in the laser guide star wavefront sensing techniques. His research is aimed at exploring the use of adaptive optics methods to enhance the imaging capabilities of ground-based telescopes.
The invention of Starberry-Sense is a testament to the collaborative effort between IIA, collaborators and the Indian space industry. There is tremendous potential for CubeSats and small satellite missions with the invention of this low-cost and efficient star sensor. This device not only makes space missions more affordable and accessible but also sets an encouraging precedent for innovation in astronomy and astrophysics.