New nanosatellite system captures better imagery at lower cost

January 04, 2019

BEER-SHEVA, Israel...January 4, 2019 - Ben-Gurion University researchers have developed a new satellite imaging system that could revolutionize the economics and imagery available from space-based cameras and even earth-based telescopes.

"This is an invention that completely changes the costs of space exploration, astronomy, aerial photography, and more," says Angika Bulbul, a BGU Ph.D. candidate under the supervision of Prof. Joseph Rosen in the BGU Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

In a paper published in the December issue of Optica, the researchers demonstrate that nanosatellites the size of milk cartons arranged in a spherical (annular) configuration were able to capture images that match the resolution of the full-frame, lens-based or concave mirror systems used on today's telescopes.

"Several previous assumptions about long-range photography were incorrect," Bulbul says. "We found that you only need a small part of a telescope lens to obtain quality images. Even by using the perimeter aperture of a lens, as low as 0.43 percent, we managed to obtain similar image resolution compared to the full aperture area of mirror/lens-based imaging systems. Consequently, we can slash the huge cost, time and material needed for gigantic traditional optical space telescopes with large curved mirrors."

To demonstrate the synthetic marginal aperture with revolving telescopes (SMART) system capabilities, the research team built a miniature laboratory model with a circular array of sub-apertures to study the image resolution and compare them with full lens imagery.
BGU postdoc fellow Dr. Vijayakumar Anand also contributed to the research article. Funding was provided by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) (1669/16) and the Ministry of Science and Technology, Israel.

About American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion's vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University's expertise locally and around the globe. As Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) looks ahead to turning 50 in 2020, AABGU imagines a future that goes beyond the walls of academia. It is a future where BGU invents a new world and inspires a vision for a stronger Israel and its next generation of leaders. Together with supporters, AABGU will help the University foster excellence in teaching, research and outreach to the communities of the Negev for the next 50 years and beyond. Visit to learn more.

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American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

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