NanoAvionics completes LEO satellite for studying black holes

NanoAvionics completes LEO satellite for studying black holes

TAMPA, Fla. — NanoAvionics is preparing to ship a nanosatellite slated to launch this fall to study black holes and neutron stars from low Earth orbit, the Lithuanian manufacturer announced Aug. 7.

The company provided its 6U satellite platform for the NinjaSat mission, and integrated it with a payload from Japanese research institute Riken that would track the X-ray photons these compact objects emit to explore how matter accretes to them.

After launching on SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 Transporter rideshare mission, NinjaSat would spend two years in LEO observing persistently bright X-ray objects. 

Targets include Scorpius X-1, a binary star system with a fast-spinning neutron star that makes it one of the brightest X-ray objects trackable from near-Earth orbit.

A rendering of NinjaSat in orbit. Credit: NanoAvionics

Riken, which is funding the mission, said NinjaSat will also follow up on observations of transient objects made by Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI), an X-ray camera mounted to the Japanese Experiment Module on the International Space Station.

“NinjaSat allows high cadence monitoring and flexible operations for such transient sources,” Riken chief scientist Toru Tamagawa said, “which are of great value in time-domain astronomy, covertly targeting critical scientific results as a ninja.”

Riken procured NinjaSat from Mitsui Bussan Aerospace (MBA), which facilitates access to the Japanese Experiment Module and brought NanoAvionics in as a subcontractor.

MBA CEO Sadayuki Osugi said NinjaSat is the first satellite in a partnership with NanoAvionics that aims to use the Lithuanian company’s technology for other customers in the Japanese market.

NinjaSat is designed to use two identical Gas Multiplier Counters for measuring individual radiation events, attached to each end of the side of the spacecraft pointed out to space. The spacecraft also has a pair of Radiation Belt Monitors to keep tabs on background particles, and a star tracker for positioning.

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