SkyHopper is a compact but powerful space telescope concept for astronomical observations at near-infrared wavelengths from a 12U CubeSat (roughly 22x24x36 cubic cm, 24 kg). The goal of SkyHopper is to break new ground in low-cost astronomy from space by advancing the state of the art in rapid follow-up of Gamma Ray Bursts originating in the infancy of the Universe and in searching for extra-solar planets around the coldest stars in the Solar neighbourhood. SkyHopper will also seed infrastructure and expertise in Australia for science from CubeSats.
SkyHopper is currently funded for preliminary design, and it is envisioned to be launched in 2023, operating in low-Earth orbit. Its primary science payload will consist of a reflective telescope optimized for 0.8-1.7 micron observations with an actively cooled detector with 4 megapixel resolution. The spacecraft will have state-of-the-art reaction wheels and star trackers to achieve attitude control to a level comparable to the telescope’s angular resolution.
The SkyHopper idea was conceived in June 2015 at The University of Melbourne by four scientists with diverse expertise and backgrounds. In early 2018, the project combined with the Australian Space Eye CubeSat team to work together on a single mission concept for Australia’s first space telescope, supported by a large fraction of the national higher research institutions active in astronomy. Our expanded team now encompasses a consortium of 16 among the world’s leading institutions in Australia, the United States and Europe.