ARKYD: a space telescope for everyone

May 30, 2013

(Credit: Planetary Resources)

Planetary Resources has launched a Kickstarter mission to fund the planned ARKYD  space telescope.

Planetary Resources is planning  a fleet of ARKYD spacecraft to identify asteroids that are ripe for further exploration.

This same capability has numerous other potential applications in education and research. The goals with this Kickstarter mission, according to Planetary Resources:

  • To give students access to space capabilities — Whether studying planets in a 5th grade class or writing a graduate thesis, students of all ages will have the ability to direct the telescope and explore what interests them! We’re planning some exciting new educational opportunities just for K-12 educational programs.
  • To support important research and discovery — There are thousands of institutions and researchers in need for greater access to in-orbit space observatories. The ARKYD will provide a new, low-cost resource to help observe distant galaxies, search for alien planets, and monitor the skies for potentially dangerous asteroids. Researchers at MIT, the University of Washington, and across the globe have shown interest in using the ARKYD to further their important research.
  • To build excitement about space and all of its potential — The ARKYD is designed to be a fun and interactive experience that is accessible to anyone. This kind of direct access to a satellite is unprecedented. Our backers will be the first people in history to control a public space telescope!
  • To give YOU a say — What makes this mission unique is that we’re putting control of the telescope in YOUR hands. You’ll get the opportunity to help decide which science centers and museums are the beneficiaries of ARKYD telescope time, what photos to take, and more. We’re putting YOU in control! By pledging toward this mission, you’ll receive access to our website and mobile apps allowing you to follow along with the progress of the satellite, sneak peaks at photos and videos, and get voting access to make your voice heard in the future direction of the satellite!

The proceeds from this campaign will go to launching the satellite into space, supporting the spacecraft over its lifetime, creating an easy-to-use Control Interface that will allow anyone to access and control the satellite and funding the creation of an :incredible, interactive educational experience that can be used by schools anywhere, to enable students to experience space in a way that’s never been possible.”


1) Take a Photo of Yourself in Space!

At its core, the ARKYD is a space telescope. The large, main optic is designed to take high-resolution photos of objects in space. What truly sets it apart is that we’ve engineered the spacecraft with an external screen and a camera arm, allowing us to take pictures of the ARKYD as it orbits Earth.

Your photo (or graphic!) will be displayed on the satellite’s external screen overlooking Earth. We will then take a picture from our camera arm and send the image back to you. This is what we are calling a “Space Selfie”. Be the first of your friends to claim bragging rights on Facebook. Send a picture of your family to use on your next holiday card and be as creative as you want! All of the Space Selfies can be displayed on our community page online (if you want).

Seeing a picture of yourself or your loved ones above our planet can change our awareness of this fragile shell nourishing all life on Earth. There are no borders visible from space, and the “Space Selfie” can provide a small taste of the “Overview Effect” (The psychological phenomenon experienced by astronauts who spend time above the Earth and feel the imperative to protect our planet).

2) Use the telescope’s main optic to take beautiful photos of space

Search for potentially dangerous asteroids or study distant galaxies like never before. Some photographic examples of the ARKYD’s capabilities include: objects in our solar system, such as Jupiter and its moons, and distant phenomena, such as the Crab Nebula. The ARKYD will also be able to perform photometric applications, like determining the spin rate of an asteroid. Don’t know what object in space you’d want to take a picture of? Check out Google Sky to view some of the images of space we, as a species, already have. Here are some other examples of observations that will be possible with the ARKYD’s main optic:

3) Use Your Telescope Time to Support Important Science Education

For us, an important part of this mission is educating the next generation. You can use your telescope time to allow students to learn about the cosmos, or help researchers conduct important scientific inquiry. We’ll also be working with a science center or museum to create a special educational curriculum AND an interactive, ARKYD-themed exhibit is also currently underway. We’ve long wanted to create an exciting, immersive educational experience that will help schools around the world take advantage of this new technology. Imagine being able to walk into an exhibit and actually control a space telescope as it travels above us at five miles per second!

Space Sciences and Engineering are two of the most challenging subjects to teach in primary education. Students rarely get to work on any real science, and are instead stuck with theory that is difficult for many to grasp. The ARKYD brings these subjects directly into the classroom, giving students hands-on experience with a space telescope. They will learn how it is launched and how it works. Even more, they will get to use it to make their own space observations.

The details of the Curriculum and the Exhibit are being created as we speak. Below you’ll find a list of educational elements that we hope to make a reality for schools around the world:

  • An immersive supplement to curriculum in physics, radio science and communications
  • Space Selfies and Space Observations from the main optic, controlled by educators
  • Access to an educational video series taught by engineers at Planetary Resources
  • Mission badges
  • A detailed poster of the ARKYD and 3D model of the spacecraft as a teaching aid
  • and more…

Advances in technology have allowed us to make the spacecraft smaller, more efficient and cheaper than ever before. These advancements also allow us to pack more computing and optical power into a smaller package.

Arkyd Space Telescope Specs

  • 200 mm aperture, f/4 primary optic
  • Resolving capability: ~ 1 arcsecond
  • Detection capability: to visual magnitude 19
  • 5 MP+ image sensor
  • Wavelength range: 200 nm to 1100 nm
  • Available filters: UV bandpass (< 300 nm), B, V, R, OIII, Hα, 1 μm bandpass, Luminence (Clear)
  • Active image stabilization