The PicSat mission

PicSat is a nano-satellite designed to measure exoplanetary transits. The development of the CubeSat is conducted within the High Angular Resolution Astronomy group at LESIA. The PicSat satellite uses single-mode fibre filtering and single pixel avalanche photodiodes for high accuracy photometry. It is also a technology demonstrator for future interferometric missions.

The primary objective of this project is to observe the transit of the planet Beta Pictoris b as it passes in front of its star. The planet was first discovered by Anne-Marie Lagrange’s team using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) array in Chile. The team discovered a planet orbiting at about 10 AU from the star Beta Pictoris, thanks to the use of VLT’s adaptive optics system (Lagrange et al., 2009). Measurements taken between 2003 and 2015 have refined its orbital parameters and this suggests that the planet (or at least its Hill sphere) passes in front of the star[1]

Beta Pictoris at InfraRed wavelenghts

Moreover, these measurements are consistent with the November 1981 event, where important photometric variations were measured from the ground. If this planet has actually passed that year, the next transit would take place between July 2017 and March 2018 for an eccentric orbit of 0.12[1].

The ability to observe a transit of this type, a giant young planet, a few million years old, orbiting a bright star is a chance that must be seized. This requires continuous photometric monitoring of the star that only a space observatory can achieve while avoiding the atmospheric disturbances, and the day / night cycle.

The Beta Pictoris system (β Pic) is also known for its debris disk, typical of young star systems (20 million years). Precision photometry also allows us to characterise the dust tails of exo-comets (or comets in another solar system) and measure the structure of the debris disk.
[1]Lecavelier des Etangs & Vidal-Madjar, 2015

Recent Posts

Space is hard: PSLV-C39 launch failure

Building and testing a satellite is an Herculean task. Making reliable software is exceptionally time-consuming and requires a lot of

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In the vacuum chamber, no one can hear you scream

PicSat is back in the thermal vacuum chamber SimEnOm! After having cycled the payload electronic board v1.00, the payload electronic

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PicSat at SmallSat

PicSat is at Small Satellite Conference, for a talk on the payload and a poster! See you there …

Ground Segment Software Release

The Ground Segment Software specifically developed for PicSat is finally released! Here are some of its features: Pure-python (compatible 2.7

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First Light for the ground station

The first communication between the ground station and the CubeSat was established yesterday. We fired through a forest, 2 buildings

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News from the secondary mirror

Sorry for the recent lack of news. We were busy: after all the stress tests, the secondary mirror gave signs

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Setting up the ground station (first try)

The team is working hard (even though the sun is shining). And yes, we need additional posts.  

Deployment successful!

To provide the required 5W of electrical power, the PicSat satellite encompass 2 deployable solar panels of 2U length each.

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Les ondes Vagabondes

A radio interview (in French) of the PI : Not particularly accurate, but mostly true…

Flight model update

Some news on PicSat ! We just receive the mechanical parts of the Payload, the next step is the coating

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