Project update: Expanded science focus, new team members, preliminary design progress, Australian space agency.

The last few months have been hectic but highly productive for the SkyHopper project, and there are several news that will be presented in greater details in the next newsletter and in a major website update. In the meantime, a brief preview of the key highlights:

The SkyHopper and the Australian Space Eye teams joined forces to develop a unified mission concept for Australia’s first space telescope. The combined SkyHopper CubeSat project has an expanded and stronger science case that includes new ambitious planetary science and extragalactic observations, in particular the first high-precision measurement of the unresolved infrared background radiation produced by stars and galaxies during the first billion years after the Big Bang. As a result our team membership has grown significantly at the national level, while at the same team we have established new international collaborations.


SkyHopper’s preliminary design is progressing at full speed. First, we have an updated and improved spacecraft and telescope design that enable the new cosmic infrared background science. Second, the technological development of SkyHopper’s innovative camera has been awarded a major grant in Germany in 2018, bringing the total funding for the Kester prism imager construction to more than 1,000,000 AUD. Finally, two miniaturized crycooler units, that we are considering to fly on SkyHopper to keep its infrared detector at 130 degrees Celsius below the freezing point, have been shipped by the vendor to Australia. We are keenly awaiting delivery of the hardware at the University of Melbourne, where we will characterize their performance under simulated operating conditions in space (under vacuum).

Last but not least: Details on Australia’s space agency are starting to emerge, and we are looking forward to the official government announcement expected in a few days.


PARTNER INSTITUTES

Australian Astronomical Observatory ∙ Australian National University ∙ Cambridge University ∙ Curtin University ∙ NASA Goddard ∙ Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics ∙ Space Telescope Science Institute ∙ Swinburne Institute of Technology ∙ Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg ∙ University of Virginia