CGS awarded ESA Contract for NEOSTEL

The NEOSTEL Project is developed in the framework of an ESA Program named Space Situational Awareness Near Earth Objects System (SSA NEO), which target is to implement a Network of Optical Ground Sensors that will contribute to the Survey and Tracking of natural Space Objects, such as Asteroids, Comets, etc., that could come close and potentially impact with the Earth.

This network will be based on Ground Optical Telescopes that shall allow to completely scan the full visible sky every night. This observation strategy, which is called ‘Wide Survey’ and is complementary to the traditional “Deep survey” approach, will allow the discovery of the Near Earth Objects (NEO) threats with a time advantage sufficient to adopt both prevention and mitigation actions, thus allowing to either avoid or reduce catastrophic events.

The application of the new “Wide Survey” NEO Observation Strategy will be possible only by exploiting Optical Instruments characterized by an extremely large Field of View but still ensuring the necessary accuracy, in order to reduce the number of required telescopes down to an economically affordable figure.

To achieve these goals in an effective design-to-cost perspective is very difficult to reach with traditional technologies; in this respect, an important new concept based on the so-called “Fly-Eye” configuration, allowing to obtain the required stringent performances though greatly simplifying the overall optical design, has been introduced by CGS.

The introduction and development of this breakthrough concept started in 2009, combining the efforts of an Italian team led by CGS and involving eminent Italian Research Institutes, Universities and SMEs.

The application of the “Fly-Eye” concept allowed CGS to conceptually design and demonstrate the feasibility of a new Optical Telescope Architecture, permitting to merge a very wide Field of View, (continuously covering about 45 square degrees), with a seeing limited optical quality (1.5 arcsec pixel scale, for an overall 256 Mpix Focal Plane dimension) over the whole field, and provided with a one meter equivalent aperture.

In the framework of the NEOSTEL ESA Contract, CGS has been committed to develop the Detailed Design of an optical Telescope based on the Fly-Eye concept, capable to satisfy the full requirement set, necessary for the Sky Wide Survey and Detection of new NEOs. CGS will also define all requirements that shall be satisfied by the Observatory Sites that will host the ESA NEO Telescopes.

The outcomes of the NEOSTEL Program will put the basis for the implementation and deployment of the first “NEO Fly-Eye Telescope Prototype” and of all the successive Instruments, which will be used to build up the entire NEO Wide Survey Optical Observation Network.

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