Exploded view of the Starberry-Sense stellar sensor developed by researchers at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics. Photo: special arrangement
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) have developed a low-cost stellar sensor for astronomy and small CubeSat-class satellite missions.
The stellar sensor called Starberry-Sense can help small CubeSat-class satellite missions find their orientation in space.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) said Starberry-Sense is ready to launch on ISRO’s PS4-Orbital platform and can be used for CubeSats and other small satellite missions in the future.
Based on off-the-shelf/off-the-shelf components, this star sensor costs less than 10% of those available on the market. The brains of the tool is a single-board Linux computer called the Raspberry Pi, which is widely used among electronics enthusiasts.
“We coupled some highly optimized algorithms with a Raspberry Pi and turned it into a powerful star sensor, called StarBerry-Sense. We could demonstrate that instruments built with readily available components can be space-qualified,” said Bharat Chandra, Ph.D. IIA scholar and first author of the research, which was published in the Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems.
“Every satellite needs to know where it is pointing in space, and the instrument used for this purpose is called a star sensor. The position of the stars in the sky is fixed relative to each other and can be used as a stable frame of reference for calculating the orientation of an orbiting satellite. This is done by correctly identifying the stars in the sky at which the star sensor is pointed. The star sensor is essentially a celestial compass,” DST added.
The star sensor successfully passed vibration and thermal vacuum testing that qualifies it for launch and space operations, and these tests were conducted in-house at the environmental testing facility located at the IIA’s CREST Campus in Hosakote.