. 24/7 Space News .
Exoplanet Mission Completes Design Milestone
by Staff Writers
London, UK (SPX) Jun 21, 2016

Artist's impression of the Twinkle spacecraft. Image courtesy Twinkle, UCL, SSTL, Blue Skies Space. For a larger version of this image please go here.

Twinkle has completed a key preliminary design milestone. The results of the payload study demonstrate that Twinkle's instruments will be able to achieve the mission's science objectives. Twinkle's two spectrometers will analyze light transmitted through, and emitted or reflected by, the atmospheres of exoplanets in order to give radical insights into worlds orbiting distant stars.

"This is a big step for Twinkle," said Dr. Giorgio Savini of UCL, Twinkle's Payload Lead, who is responsible for the study. "The mission is based on an ambitious concept: that we can do ground-breaking astronomy with a small satellite and off-the-shelf components.

"The information on the exoplanet atmospheres shows up as a variation of one part in ten-thousand of the overall light emitted by the host star. With the completion of this payload description and design, we can now demonstrate that Twinkle will have the agility, stability and sensitivity required to pick out this light, analyze the spectra and allow us to extract information on the gases present."

The Twinkle spacecraft will be constructed by the world-leading small satellite company, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL), and will carry a payload weighing less than 100 kilograms that includes the scientific instrumentation, electronics, a cooling system and a fine guidance system. The whole payload package is about the size of a water boiler.

"Building any instrumentation to go into space is difficult because the extreme temperatures on the sunlit and shadowed sides cause materials to expand and contract. For Twinkle, where precision optics are key to the mission's success, this is a particular engineering challenge," said Berend Winter of the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, who is responsible for the overall mechanical design. "The instruments also need to be cooled so that the detectors measure radiation from the planet, rather than emissions from the satellite itself. Twinkle will incorporate a compact, low-cost cooling system built by the Science and Technology Facilities Council's RAL Space facility [http://www.ralspace.stfc.ac.uk/RALSpace], which has a 30-year track-record in providing cooling technology for successful space missions. All the payload components will be mounted onto two aluminium plates connected to radiators, which will deposit unwanted heat out into space. This structure will ensure that Twinkle has the stable, uncontaminated platform it needs to make observations."

Twinkle will collect light from its target planetary systems using a telescope based on a modified telescope system, called RALCAM4, developed by STFC's RAL Space facility for Earth observation missions. Behind a 50-centimeter-class primary mirror, a series of small mirrors will fold the light to fit the space limitations.

To compensate for the small movements of Twinkle during science observations, a steerable 'tip-tilt' mirror will focus a steady beam of incoming light into the science instrument package. There, the light will be filtered to remove unwanted wavelengths and divided into inputs for the two spectrometers.

Twinkle's infrared spectrometer is optimized for studying atmospheric features in bright exoplanets, such as hot-Jupiters and super-Earths orbiting close in to their star. These features include the spectral fingerprints of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen sulphide, as well as exotic metallic compounds such as titanium monoxide, vanadium monoxide and silicon oxide. The infrared spectrometer has been designed by STFC's UK Astronomy Technology Center (UKATC) and takes on board design heritage from the James Webb Space Telescope's MIRI infrared instrument.

"A critical driver for Twinkle is to use technology that has already been proven for use in orbit," said Keith Barnes of Leonardo-Finmeccanica, which is contributing the detectors for the infrared spectrometer.

"Leonardo has supplied infrared detectors for space and astronomy programs over a period of 40 years, for organizations including the European Space Agency, European Southern Observatory and DLR the German Space agency. Involvement in Twinkle is an early opportunity for an in-flight demonstration of our detectors for exoplanet research, currently the fastest growing area of astrophysics."

Visible and near-infrared light will be analyzed using the Exoplanet Light Visible Spectrometer (ELVIS), a modified version of the UVIS instrument carried by the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter that was launched to Mars in March 2016. ELVIS, which will be built by the Open University, will allow Twinkle to monitor stellar variability in the exoplanet systems and to detect signs of cloud cover.

"Visible light can be blocked by clouds when an exoplanet passes in front of a star, and is strongly reflected by cloud tops when the planet starts to go into eclipse behind the planet. The inclusion of ELVIS will allow Twinkle to study weather and climate for some of the largest, brightest exoplanets in its target sample," explained Dr. Manish Patel, who led development of UVIS at the Open University. "By optimizing the wavelength range of the detectors, using an alternative diffraction grating and making a few minor changes to the electronics, we now have an exciting opportunity to reuse the technology that we have developed for ExoMars."

The performance of the suite of instruments on the Twinkle spacecraft have been tested using the Twinkle Instrument and Platform Simulator, ExoSim, developed by Cardiff University.

"The simulations show that Twinkle will be able to deliver high-resolution spectra for 100-150 hot, bright exoplanets. Currently, we know almost nothing about these planets beyond their mass, size and distance to their star, so Twinkle will give us completely new insights into what they are made of and how they have evolved," said Dr. Enzo Pascale of Cardiff University, Twinkle's Instrument Scientist.

Although Twinkle's instruments will not be able to produce full spectra for planets at habitable temperatures, the ExoSim simulations suggest that Twinkle may be able to contribute to the search for small, rocky planets by flagging up potentially interesting targets for further study.

"For targets close to Earth where the conditions are right, ExoSim suggests that we will be able to obtain a handful of data points in the infrared light for small, rocky planets. This means that as well as delivering the spectral signatures of bright exoplanets, Twinkle can also help identify targets of interest for further observation by larger telescopes in the future," said Prof. Giovanna Tinetti of UCL, Twinkle's Science Lead.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Twinkle Mission
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Planet-Devouring Star Reveals Possible Limestone Crumbs
Kamuela HI (SPX) Jun 16, 2016
A group of researchers using the W. M. Keck Observatory have discovered a planet-like body that may have been encrusted in limestone and is having its surface layers devoured by its deceased host star. In addition to extending a relatively new method of determining the chemical composition of planets to examine their internal structure, the team found that the rocky material being accreted by th ... read more

US may approve private venture moon mission: report

Fifty Years of Moon Dust

Airbus Defence and Space to guide lunar lander to the Moon

A new, water-logged history of the Moon

Rover Opportunity Wrapping up Study of Martian Valley

A little help from friends

Delayed ExoMars mission gets 77-mln-euro boost

CaSSIS Sends First Image of Mars

Blue Origin has fourth successful rocket booster landing

TED Talks aim for wider global reach

Disney brings its brand to Shanghai with new theme park

Tech, beauty intersect in Silicon Valley

China to send Chang'e-4 to south pole of moon's far-side

Experts Fear Chinese Space Station Could Crash Into Earth

Bolivia to pay back loan to China for Tupac Katari satellite

China plans 5 new space science satellites

NASA Ignites Fire Experiment Aboard Space Cargo Ship

Three astronauts touch down after 6 months in space

Cygnus spacecraft begins next phase of OA-6 mission

Cygnus space capsule departs International Space Station

McCain Stands Down: Congress Reaches Compromise on Russian Rockets

SpaceX launches satellites but fails to recover rocket

Launch Vehicle Ascent Trajectories and Sequencing

Arianespace makes history on its latest Ariane 5 mission

Largest crowdsource astronomy network helps confirm discovery of 'Tatooine' planet

Smaller Stars Pack Big X-ray Punch for Would-Be Planets

San Francisco State University astronomer helps discover giant planet orbiting 2 suns

Largest, Widest Orbit "Tatooine" Bolsters Planet Formation Theories

Building the Future: Space Station Crew 3-D Prints First Student-Designed Tool in Space

Ubisoft to let game players join 'Star Trek' crew

Video game makers finding their way in virtual worlds

Serco gets $38 million missile radar contract

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.