A small satellite named “Twinkle” will be launched in four years and provide new information about exoplanets, according to a press release from University College London (UCL). The details of the mission that will be lead by UCL and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) will be announced Friday at an open meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society.
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Twinkle, funded through a mix of private and public finance, also represents a rapid, cost-effective mission at £50 million. This is around a tenth the cost of comparable missions by international space agencies. Largely this is due to innovations by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) who are constructing Twinkle. These innovations have seen them become a successful manufacturer and exporter of satellites. The other factor is the use of off-the-shelf components.
Twinkle’s operational life is three years, with the possibility of an extension of two years or more. It will analyse at least 100 exoplanets in the Milky Way.
“The light filtered through the planet’s atmosphere is only about one ten thousandth of the overall light from the star,” said Tinetti. “That’s a big challenge and one that requires a very stable platform outside the screening effects of Earth’s atmosphere.”
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Press release: http://goo.gl/zxDhYc.