ESA plans to sync satellites to create virtual telescope

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The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced plans to sync two satellites to create a virtual telescope.

ESA plans to sync satellites to create virtual telescope

The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced plans to sync two satellites to create a virtual telescope.

The ESA Proba-3 project is scheduled for a 2018 launch and its mission will be to demonstrate that two satellites can orbit and maintain relative positions.

Both satellites will use radios and lasers to measure position, then use miniature thrusters to adjust their positions where needed.

The plan is to position the satellites 150 meters apart, fixed in a synchronized orbit.

Project designers say a disc will be mounted on one of the satellites to create a permanent solar eclipse for the second satellite.

This will allow the second satellite to study the Sun’s corona without being blinded by the Sun’s rays. Scientists want to know why the corona, a gaseous outer atmospheric layer above the Sun, is hotter than the surface.

The Sun is a million times brighter than its surrounding corona, so eclipsing it is essential for coronal studies. This giant coronagraph system will enrich the solar science with unprecedented study of the close corona.

If successful, the Proba-3 project will expand telescopic investigation in space by creating a virtual telescope not limited to size and weight restrictions that apply to physical telescopes.

A virtual telescope comprised of synchronized satellites would improve on the quality of images available to scientists limited by earth-bound telescopes and the distortion caused by Earth’s atmosphere.

According to ESA, Proba-3 will be a laboratory in space to validate strategies, guidance, navigation and control and other algorithms previously tried in ground simulators. Techniques and simulators developed in the frame of Proba-3 will then be available more widely, becoming instrumental in the preparation of future missions.