New Space and Tech

CubeSats For Gamma-Ray Astronomy

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
December 28, 2022
Filed under , ,
CubeSats For Gamma-Ray Astronomy
CAD view of the 3U LIGHT-1 CubeSat mission showing (left) the main subsystems. These fit within 1.3 U, leaving 1.7 U for the 2 gamma–ray detector payloads at the top and bottom of the spacecraft. Deployable and embedded solar panels used for power generation are shown on the right. — astro-ph.IM

After many years of flying in space primarily for educational purposes, CubeSats – tiny satellites with form factors corresponding to arrangements of “1U” units, or cubes, each 10 cm on a side – have come into their own as valuable platforms for technology advancement and scientific investigations.

CubeSats offer comparatively rapid, low-cost access to space for payloads that be built, tested, and operated by relatively small teams, with substantial contributions from students and early career researchers. Continuing advances in compact, low-power detectors, readout electronics, and flight computers have now enabled X-ray and gamma-ray sensing payloads that can fit within the constraints of CubeSat missions, permitting in-orbit demonstrations of new techniques and innovative high-energy astronomy observations. Gamma-ray-sensing CubeSats are certain to make an important contribution in the new era of multi-messenger, time-domain astronomy by detecting and localizing bright transients such as gamma-ray bursts, solar flares, and terrestrial gamma-ray flashes; however, other astrophysical science areas requiring long observations in a low-background environment, including gamma-ray polarimetry, studies of nuclear lines, and measurement of diffuse backgrounds, will likely benefit as well.

We present the primary benefits of CubeSats for high-energy astronomy, highlight the scientific areas currently or soon to be studied, and review the missions that are currently operating, under development, or proposed. A rich portfolio of CubeSats for gamma-ray astronomy already exists, and the potential for a broad range of creative and scientifically productive missions in the near future is very high.

Peter F. Bloser (Los Alamos National Laboratory), David Murphy (Centre for Space Research and School of Physics, University College Dublin), Fabrizio Fiore (INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Trieste), Jeremy Perkins (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Comments: Book chapter for the “Handbook of X-ray and Gamma-ray Astrophysics”, Section “Optics and Detectors for Gamma-ray Astrophysics” (Editors in chief: C. Bambi and A. Santangelo, Springer Singapore). 33 pages, 11 figures
Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena (astro-ph.HE)
Report number: LA-UR-22-30861
Cite as: arXiv:2212.11413 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:2212.11413v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)
Submission history
From: Peter Bloser
[v1] Wed, 21 Dec 2022 23:45:49 UTC (30,990 KB)

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.