Multi-Site Simultaneous Time-Resolved Photometry with a Low Cost Electro-Optics System

Sensors (Basel). 2017 May 30;17(6):1239. doi: 10.3390/s17061239.


Sunlight reflected off of resident space objects can be used as an optical signal for astrometric orbit determination and for deducing geometric information about the object. With the increasing population of small satellites and debris in low Earth orbit, photometry is a powerful tool in operational support of space missions, whether for anomaly resolution or object identification. To accurately determine size, shape, spin rate, status of deployables, or attitude information of an unresolved resident space object, multi-hertz sample rate photometry is required to capture the relatively rapid changes in brightness that these objects can exhibit. OSCOM, which stands for Optical tracking and Spectral characterization of CubeSats for Operational Missions, is a low cost and portable telescope system capable of time-resolved small satellite photometry, and is field deployable on short notice for simultaneous observation from multiple sites. We present the electro-optical design principles behind OSCOM and light curves of the 1.5 U DICE-2 CubeSat and simultaneous observations of the main body of the ASTRO-H satellite after its fragmentation event.

Keywords: multi-site observation; photometry; small satellites; small telescopes; space situational awareness; unresolved object characterization.