Space Dynamics Lab engineers develop unique telescope
April 14, 2015
A team of engineers at Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Lab were granted a patent from the federal government for an invention that will allow payload designers and engineers to put large telescopes on small satellites.
Space Dynamics Lab electro-optical engineer Trent Newswander’s invention, the Multiple Petal Deployable Telescope, includes larger telescope apertures, filling a gap in the size, weight and power limitations of small satellites when it comes to accomplishing optical science missions that require larger telescopes. SDL officials say laboratory testing of prototypes has shown that this technology can support visible imaging missions.
“This allows for a more economical space telescope,” Newswander said. “It provides higher-fidelity images in a smaller package for less money.” James Champagne, an SDL optical engineer, also played a part in developing the Multiple Petal Deployable Telescope.
“A larger aperture allows for higher spatial resolution imagery,” he said. “You can capture more light, and that gives you a cleaner image with less grain.”
Eric Warren, spokesman for the Utah State University Research Foundation, explained that, when it comes to space missions and small satellites, mass is a premium.
“The more capability you can put onto a small spacecraft, the more value it adds to a mission or a customer,” Warren said.
The deployable telescope has been lab tested, showing it provides high-quality visual imagery, Newswander said, but it has not been tested for space flight. SDL officials say the telescope could be used for everything from commercial to military missions, but it has not been determined exactly when one will first launch. Newswander said the telescope could go on a mutli-year mission.
Niel Holt, director of SDL, praised Newswander and Champagne in a prepared statement.
“The patent award for the petal telescope continues SDL’s 55 year legacy of innovating ideas that contribute to advances in our industry,” Holt said. “Trent and the other 450 dedicated professionals at SDL are at the vanguard of technologies and methods to improve ways in which we enable our customers in the aerospace, science and defense communities to successfully fulfill their missions.”
SDL is a unit of the Utah State University Research Foundation. Charged with applying basic research in the military and science arenas, SDL has developed technologies for data collection for a variety of government and commercial space missions; these areas include electro-optical sensor systems, calibration, thermal management, reconnaissance systems and small satellite technologies. In addition to Logan, SDL has operations in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Bedford, Massachusetts; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; Huntsville, Alabama; and Houston.