18th March, 2023 Science and Technology
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- Researchers at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) have developed a low-cost star sensor for astronomy and small CubeSat class satellite missions. The star sensor named Starberry-Sense can help small CubeSat class satellite missions find their orientation in space.
- Any satellite needs to know where it is pointed in space, and the instrument used for this purpose is called a star sensor.
- The position of stars in the sky is fixed relative to each other and can be used as a stable reference frame to calculate the orientation of a satellite in orbit. This is done by correctly identifying the stars in the sky towards which the star sensor is pointed.
- The star sensor is essentially a celestial compass.
High cost of Star Sensors
- In recent years CubeSats and small satellite missions have gained huge popularity. These missions utilize commercially available components for their design and development, but the typical cost of a commercially available star sensor often exceeds the total budget for a CubeSat.
- Researchers at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) and their collaborators have now developed a star sensor for astronomy and small satellite CubeSat class missions.
- Based on commercial/off-the-shelf (COTS) components, this star sensor costs less than 10% of those available in the market. The brain of the instrument is a single-board Linux computer called Raspberry Pi, which is widely used among electronics hobby enthusiasts.
- They could demonstrate that instruments built from easily available components can be qualified for space.
- The system was developed around the very popular Raspberry Pi Zero (a 1 GHz single-board computer, smaller than a credit card) as the main processing unit and its camera module. The entire setup is housed inside a protective aerospace-grade aluminum enclosure.
- StarBerry-Sense captures sky images and identifies the stars in the field by comparing their location with an onboard catalog of bright stars.
- The information is then used to identify which part of the sky the star sensor is looking at, helping locate the orientation of the satellite.
- The main advantage of the Starberry-Sense system is the low cost and the short development cycle with Commercial-off-the-shelf components which are readily available.
- Its modular design allows for quick and easy customization for various requirements. For e.g., even though StarBerry-Sense is meant for space-based applications, a modified version will be interfaced with the Major Atmospheric Cherenkov Experiment (MACE), located at the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO), Hanle, Ladakh.
- The Starberry-Sense is ready for launch on the PS4-Orbital Platform by ISRO and can be used for CubeSats and other small satellite missions in the future.
PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTION
Q. Choose the correct answer with reference to the following statements.
A. Star sensors are sensors used by satellites to orient themselves.
B. This is done by correctly identifying the stars in the sky towards which the star sensor is pointed.
1. A only
2. B only
3. Both A and B
4. Neither A nor B