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In Search of New Worlds: Behind EnduroSat’s New Mission to Find Exoplanets in Alpha Centauri

Endurosat mission - Raycho Raychev (EnduroSat) and Dr. S. Pete Worden (Breakthrough Initiatives)
Image credit: From left to right: Raycho Raychev (EnduroSat) and Dr. S. Pete Worden (Breakthrough Initiatives); image credit: portraits from press release & background image from Davide De Martin - ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2
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•    EnduroSat, the leading provider of software-flexible NanoSatellites and space services, based in Bulgaria, announced joining a new space mission called TOLIMAN.

•    TOLIMAN was launched in 2021 by the University of Sydney and Breakthrough Initiatives – a suite of space science programs funded by the foundation established by Julia and Yuri Milner – in a bid to find evidence of orbiting planets in the Alpha Centauri system.

•    EnduroSat is participating in the Phase 2 of the program, with the mission of building microsatellites that can perform high-precision astrometric measurements on Alpha Centauri.

 

Specifically, the TOLIMAN mission is centered around using a custom-designed mirror to spread starlight into a flower-like pattern in the Alpha Centauri system, enabling astronomers to find evidence of orbiting planets. Phase 2 of the program is building a large telescope and integrating it with the spacecraft.

Yet discovering exoplanets poses major technical issues, even when using large space telescopes. The 16U micro-satellites that EnduroSat is building will have to fit the telescope within 8U of volume and maintain it in thermal equilibrium using an active thermal system. Furthermore, the ability of the MicroSat to download payload data at a speed of 125+ Mbps will be critical for downloading all data from prolonged observation sessions.

“It’s very exciting to see this program come to life. With these partnerships, we have the opportunity to create a new kind of astronomical mission and make real progress on understanding the planetary systems right next door,” added Dr. S. Pete Worden, Executive Director at Breakthrough Initiatives.

A new EnduroSat mission to challenge the impossible

Raycho Raychev has always believed that space is closer than we think and with every new mission he is building this conviction deeper and wider with the rest of us. 

As the founder and CEO of EnduroSat describes it, the TOLIMAN mission is: “a first of its kind exploration science effort”, which, if successful, “will open the doors for low-cost exploration and astronomy missions”. Ultimately, EnduroSat and their partners hope the mission will inspire and lay the groundwork for “the next-gen exploration teams to realize their own space missions” that push the limits of what’s possible.

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Impossible isn’t a familiar word within the EnduroSat team’s everyday vocabulary. The space tech scaleup, specialized in engineering, building, and operating NanoSatellites, already has a number of milestones under its belt. They are one of the fastest-growing space tech companies. They were the first Bulgarian company to participate in a venture debt agreement under the European Guarantee Fund and the third space tech company backed by the European Investment Bank. And they have entered numerous partnerships with tech leaders and governments, for instance helping Kuwait in launching its first-ever satellite mission.

Even so, with this mission, EnduroSat’s founder says “the challenges are enormous, and it will drive our engineering efforts to the extreme”. If you ever wondered, the Centauri system is “just” four light years away.

Mission leader Professor Peter Tuthill from the University of Sydney says: “Astronomers have discovered thousands of exoplanets outside our own solar system, but most are thousands of light years away and beyond our reach. Modern satellite technology will allow us to explore our celestial backyard and perhaps lay the groundwork for visionary future missions spanning the interstellar voids to the Centauri system.”

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https://therecursive.com/author/antoanelaionita/

Antoanela is a Sustainability Communications Specialist and Deputy Editor at The Recursive media. From these roles, she is helping organizations communicate their latest sustainability goals, strategies, and technologies. She writes about climate tech, ESG, impact investment, sustainability regulation, and related topics.