On July 20, 2012--the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing--a supply spacecraft bound for the International Space Station lifted off from Japan, carrying with it a telescope system designed by Starizona and featuring our HyperStar lens. The telescope will be mounted in the Destiny module of the ISS and will be pointed back down at the Earth to capture images as part of the ISERV program.
The HyperStar lens is the keystone of a high-speed imaging system used by many astrophotographers around the world. The HyperStar converts a standard Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope (SCT) into a very high-speed, wide-field imaging system, allowing much shorter exposures of deep-sky objects than are required by other telescope designs. The optical design of the HyperStar lens provides excellent image quality over a large field of view.
These features make the HyperStar system an ideal choice for the ISERV mission. ISERV seeks to provide data for disaster analysis and environmental studies, for example to developing countries that cannot acquire the images needed to make post-disaster assessments. The ISERV telescope will be mounted in the WORF (Window Observation Research Facility) in the Destiny module of the ISS. The WORF is an Earth-facing optical-quality window used for making observations of our home planet.
To fit the size restrictions of the WORF payload bay, Starizona customized a Celestron CPC-925 telescope with shorter fork arms from a CPC-800. The 9.25" telescope uses the HyperStar lens to operate at a fast f/2.3 focal ratio. A Canon EOS 7D digital SLR is mounted on the HyperStar lens to capture images. The large sensor, small pixels, and fast shutter speed of the EOS 7D made it a perfect match. The resulting system has a resolution of 10 feet per pixel, but gives a field of view 10 miles x 7 miles in size. The fast shutter speed is needed to capture sharp images at high resolution while moving at more than 17,000 miles per hour aboard the space station.
The Starizona crew--Steve, Scott, Donna and Dean--with the modified CPC-925 telescope, Starizona HyperStar lens, Canon EOS 7D, and Starizona MicroTouch autofocuser that are now headed for the ISS. The second scope is the duplicate version that NASA will keep on the ground for tests and reference.
To reach its new home, the ISERV telescope was loaded aboard the Japanese HTV3 transfer vehicle with other supplies bound for the ISS. The HTV3, called Kounotori ("White Stork"), can carry 13,000 pounds of supplies into low-Earth orbit. The HTV3 was placed aboard an HII-B rocket at the Tanegashima Space Center in the Osumi Islands of southern Japan.
The HTV3 transfer vehicle being prepared in Japan
On the morning of July 21st, 2012--the evening of July 20th in the US--the 185-foot-tall HII-B rocket lifted off into rainy skies. Within seconds the rocket disappeared into the low cloud deck. Despite the weather, the launch went perfectly. The HII-B's four solid rocket boosters burned for the first 2 minutes of the flight before being jettisoned. The first-stage liquid engines continued burning for about 4 more minutes. 3 minutes 40 seconds into the flight, the payload fairing that surrounds the HTV3 was jettisoned. At this point the rocket was already 74 miles high and traveling 6400 miles per hour. After main engine cutoff, about 6 minutes into the flight, the stages separated and seconds later the second-stage liquid engines fired. These engines burned for 8 minutes, taking the payload into Earth orbit. At second-stage engine cutoff, the rocket was traveling 17,000 miles per hour at an altitude of 178 miles, 2300 miles southeast of the launch site. 15 minutes after takeoff, the HTV3 separated from the rocket and was in orbit. The rest of the rocket's second stage continued to make a single orbit and 90 minutes later the engines were fired one last time to deorbit the rocket safely into the south Pacific. Meanwhile the HTV3 continued circling Earth.
On July 27th, the HTV3 will dock with the ISS and deliver its payload, including the HyperStar-equipped telescope. The telescope will be installed in the WORF where it will be remotely controlled by scientists on Earth. Custom software will control the movements of the CPC mount, and the Starizona MicroTouch autofocuser will be used to focus the telescope. The first images should be coming down from the ISS within a few months. Watch Starizona.com for updates!
Starizona would like to thank everyone who has helped make this project possible, but special thanks are due to Dick Buchroeder, Kent Patterson, and William Meredith.