Washington: The smallest astronomical satellite ever built is set to be launched on Monday, February 25, as part of a mission to prove that even a very small telescope can push the boundaries of astronomy.
The satellite was designed and assembled at the Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) of the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS).
It will be launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, India, along with its twin, also designed in Canada, but assembled in Austria.
Each nano-satellite in the BRIght Target Explorer (BRITE) mission is a cube 20 centimeters per side, and weighing less than 7 kilograms.
The BRITE satellites are part of the new wave of nano-satellites that can be designed, assembled and deployed fast and relatively cheaply.
"SFL has demonstrated that nano-satellites can be developed quickly, by a small team and at a cost that is within reach of many universities, small companies and other organizations," Cordell Grant, Manager of Satellite Systems for the Space Flight Laboratory at UTIAS said.
"A nano-satellite can take anywhere from six months to a few years to develop and test, but we typically aim for two years or less," Grant said.
Up to now, such nano-satellites had been used only to monitor the Earth and experiment with new technologies.
BRITE is the first nano-satellite mission intended for astronomy, and the first-ever astronomy constellation-more than one satellite working toward a common objective-of any size.
The previous world-record holder for small astronomy satellites was the MOST satellite, designed and assembled in part by SFL at UTIAS.