A space telescope would benefit from two factors:
- no atmosphere, i.e. access to UV and IR, and no seeing issues. To make use of UV one would not need a huge aperture according to Dawes limit (angular resolution) but detectors become an issue at wavelengths significantly shorter than 400nm. For IR one needs large aperture to keep resolution up. Over 1um detectors become an issue as well, and they may need cooling which is extra issue in space.
- little gravitational forces (after launch). This allows for much lighter optics (thinner mirrors) and structure. Say you have a mass budget of 15kg. One design criterion might be to say you put 50% of that into the main mirror (you may not need a secondary in a Newtonian design), and 50% into structure, radiation-cooled (you are in space!) detector, filter wheel, electromechanical actuators for remote adjustments, etc..
Overall, the key interest would be to have as large mirror in space as feasible. Looking at Mike Lockwood's mirrors a 'thin' 20inch quartz is 30lbs, i.e. 13kg. A bit too much, but a mirror in space maybe thinner without producing astigmatism, ideally be made of Zerodur.
Without further information ( I am physicist by education preferring to look at general principles rather than technical details ) I would speculate that a 16 - 24 inch f/5 amateur/consumer telescope dedicated to planetary and/or solar imaging might make sense for amateurs, even for professionals from those fields coming from smaller universities and research institutes. An ideal field for pro/am collaboration.
If it would be more consumer ('mass') directed ('do you want to photograph the milkyway or your home from space?' ), a large detector may be essential. For pro/am more like a low noise detector.
Some hurdles which may need consideration:
- cosmic rays, in particular following solar CMEs, resulting in radiation damage of electronics,
- Rapid data transfer of image data (to skip need of heavy on board computer)
I have no idea about technical details and if this is feasible from a financial perspective but neglecting that, I think it could be doable, would be beneficial both for amateurs, pro's and even the general population (think 'citizen science'). And it would be exciting!
Keep us posted on your further thinking and maybe the final version of your thesis!
Edited by LauraMS, 17 April 2021 - 02:40 AM.