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200 000 dollar cheap mass produced space telescopes

Space telescopes are usually very expensive, but now new rockets (SpaceX, Blue Origin) are lowering the price of kg to orbit. So if one rocket carries lots of space telescopes, like cubesats but bigger, price is very low. Wikipedia page “Circle packing in a circle” is how much round objects can be packed inside one circle (rocket payload bay). Herschel space telescope had mirror that had only about 0,5 focus length of mirror size, so 3,5m wide telescope had focus point of only 1.75 m tall. This kind of optics can be used in cheap mass manufactured space telescopes that can be packed dozens or over hundred inside rocket payload bay.
Also rocket can have oversized fairing, russion Energia-based Vulkan rocket had proposed very large oversized payload fairing in one model with about 15m or close to it size when rocket only had 7,75m width. When SpaceX Starship booster has 9m diameter perhaps 15m oversized fairing can be used also, so space telescope with 15m single mirror like Herschel can be used, not segmented mirror needed. Also if Starship has 22 X 9 m payload bay perhaps four telescopes with 9m mirror can be packed inside it, with Herschel-type flat optics. Four telescopes about 35 million dollar launch price each, perhaps 50 million dollar price (launch price plus manufacturing cost of space telescope, these are mass manufactured 9m space telescopes, not just one and only expensive thing). So it is 40 million euros. Space telescope is in low earth orbit so it enters atmosphere (weight of space telescope is 40 - 30 tons perhaps), but if it stays in orbit over 4,5 years, some private firm can own those space telescopes and sell observation time about 1000 euros per hour, after some 4,5 years telescope is making profit.
So space telescopes can be for-profit private business, and their observation time is leased and rented like communication satellites sell their services. Then everybody can buy observation time from 9m space telescope around the world, not just mega-budget scientific organizations.
Then also there can be hundreds of space telescopes in orbit, there are more than enough willing customers that are ready to buy observation time from those giant space telescopes. If payload fairing is 15m wide then space telescopes can be that size, and it will be some serious space business, and serious astronomy also for ultra cheap price (1000 euros for one hour observation time from 15m space telescope).
Satellite bus for standardized space telescopes can be build in India, China, Russia etc., and mirror polishing and manufacturing can also be in those cheap countries. Weight of primary mirror is not a problem, Herschel primary mirror weight was 240 - 311 kg (according to sources).
But also large number of smaller space telescopes can be packed inside payload bay side by side and then top of each other, Falcon 9 rocket with RUAG payload fairing will hold perhaps 300 space telescopes with 1,1m mirror size, 19 telescopes each level and perhaps about 15 levels and space telescopes packed so that they fill the top of the fairing. 300 telescopes, 60 million dollars for rocket launch, 200 000 dollar per telescope. But then weight of one telescope is only about 70 kg in low earth orbit, 5 kg for structure that holds telescopes in place during launch per telescope, 20 kg for mirror (like Webb telescope mirror segment) and only 50 kg for satellite bus, thermal protection, power, telemetry, position maintaining system and then for camera itself. So camera is not perhaps so excellent because it must be very lightweight, but it is 1,1m space telescope, and it has 200 000 dollar launch price. But not only launch price, cost has also in satellite bus and optics (mirror and camera). But mass manufactured in great numbers that space telescope satellite is very light. It is in low earth orbit so soon enters atmosphere, but it has then filled its job.
About same standardized optical system is used, but it can be tailored to infrared, visible frequency, and to near ultraviolet according to customer s needs. Telescope has tube that extends in space, it is sun visor protects from stray light, tube has no secondary mirror it is lightshade only. But infrared and spectroscopic telescopes don t need accurate optics so then ejecting expanding tube can include secondary mirror and make focal length longer, so then tube is also telescope truss. 200 000 dollar plus- price is about same price as similar 1,1m telescope on the ground, or even cheaper, so amateur astronomers can then buy their own space telescopes.
Ultraviolet, X-ray and gamma astronomy can have special mass manufactured space telescopes too designed for them. These all can use one standard type of satellite bus for each weight class, only optics and sensors in satellite bus change and can be made by customer or ordered from space telescope builder. Weight class means that there are several standardized weight classes for mass produced space telescopes, largest are those that fill the full width of payload pay and those can be stacked four on top of each other in 9m payload fairing and two or three in 15m oversized fairing. Weight is about 35 tons or less in four inside 9m fairing and 50-70 tons in two or three in 15m fairing. Particle detectors in space or X-ray and gamma ray telescopes don t need large fairings. Lightest class is 70 kg telescope that costs 200 000 dollar launch price and perhaps 50 000 or 100 000 dollar manufacturing price when standardized mass production is used and manufacturing in India, China, Russia etc. So everybody who has 250 000 - 300 000 dollars (about 200 000 - 220 000 euros) can buy space telescope. In low earth orbit it would not last long but enough for its purpose. There are then other weight / size classes up to full 9 / 15 m space telescopes.
Those large space telescopes can be owned by private space business firms that sell observation time 1000 dollar / hour (800 euros) for giant space telescopes of 9 or 15 m mirror. Telescope must stay in orbit 5 years and 8 months to collect costs back if space telescope costs 50 million dollars (15 million telescope + 35 million launch cost, Starship rocket launch prices are much less probably when their launch schedule is fast). Then if telescope stays in orbit 6,5 years before it enters atmosphere the firm that has bought one Starship rocket launch for four telescopes has made profit of 30 million dollars. So launching space telescopes to space and then renting / leasing them is serious space business and perhaps even more profitable than launching communication satellites to orbit and navigation and internet satellites. Everybody can buy observation time then from giant space telescopes, amateur astronomers and just ordinary citizens who simply want to peek to deep space for curiosity. It is easily billion dollar business and different space firms can then compete with observation time costs and picture quality of telescopes, cheap observation time probably means not so good optical quality of space telescope mirrors and cameras / sensors, and pristine optical quality, observation time sold to scientific institutions, is then more expensive.
The satellite bus for each weight / size class can be standardized, but optical components and sensors may vary. There are short length optical systems like fSONA telescope optical system, and from netpage designwizardy com “Unusual telescope designs”. Gebelein optical telescope system with spherical mirror is suitable for ground based cheap telescopes.
Space bus manufacturing, and telescope optics can be cast and polished in some cheap country like India, China or Russia, or outsourced to there. Largest mirror polishing systems have 8,4m diameter so 9m and 15m systems are needed, because main mirror is single mirror, not segmented (Herschel space telescope mirror has segmented construction but it is one mirror surface, not segmented mirror optical system like for example Keck telescope). Similar mirror construction like Herschel space telescope mirror makes lightweight mirrors possible.
Astronomical institutions can also buy their own space telescopes cheaply, with price that suits for them if several different weight/size/price classes of space telescopes are offered for mass manufacturing.
Earlier when launch prices were high space telescopes had small mirrors and they cost some billion dollars or more. But nowdays cheap launch prices makes possible paradigm shift when very large optical space telescopes can be launched to orbit cheaply. Their cameras / sensors may not be as good as those billion-dollar class earlier space telescopes, but their large main mirror more than compensate this, and although they have larger mirror they are cheaper then earlier expensive space telescopes with worse picture quality (optical power that depends the size of mirror and camera sensitivity). Robotic / automated mirror polishing also shortens time of mirror polishing so large mirrors can be polished to good optical quality fast and cheaply.
Nanocellulose is material that is eight times stronger than steel. Telescope structures can be build using nanocellulose, for example giant supertelescopes like OWL or space telescopes. Ford plans building a car that has nanocellulose structures. If car (and perhaps aeroplane) can be build using nanocellulose, and it is eight times stronger than steel, why not building telescopes using this material, perhaps coupled with synthetic spider silk. Cellulose is natural product, and probably cheaper than exotic composite materials, and have any composite material eight times the strength of steel?
The “cubesats” that are build as space telescopes, can have diameters for example 1,1m, 1,85m, 3m, 9m and 15m etc. That 1,85m is for about 200-220 telescopes in New Glenn rocket payload fairing (7m wide) that can be used as oversized fairing in Falcon 9 rocket. 7 X 3 m fits in 9m diameter payload fairing. And because telescopes are short they can be stacked on top of each other.

There are means to maintain low satellite orbit, electric propulsion, ion propulsion, or air-breathing electric thruster, that can maintain satellite orbit as low as 120 km. 200 km orbit will hold satellite just one day, so continuous thrust is need to keep satellite in orbit. If 19 space telescopes 1,1 m wide are packed in Falcon 9 rocket with RUAG fairing, and stacked about 15 levels on top of each other, about 300 space telescopes fit in one Falcon 9 rocket, but they must be light, 76 kg is available where perhaps 6 kg (optimistically) is structure per satellite that holds satellites together during launch and 70 kg left where 20 kg is mirror, and 50 kg left for power, communication, position maintaining system and air-electrical thrust system (or ion thruster etc.) and thens omething must be left for camera sensor also. But that kind of space telescope is cheap and suitable for amateur astronomers. If payload fairing is oversized (7 m) 200-220 telescopes sized 1,85 m fits in Falcon 9 rocket, 19 in each level and 10 - 12 levels. Conical shaped fairing is filled up as much as possible. Weight is then 100 - 110 kg per space telescope, main mirror weights about 30-40 kg if it is same type as Herschel space telescope mirror. Falcon heavy would be better solution but it is being phased out.
In larger Starship rocket (that is expendable version of SpaceX Starship rocket) 7 telescopes with size of 3 m in one level, about 6 levels fit in payload bay (22 m long version), about 40 space telescopes with 3 m mirror, 3 ton weight, and launch price of about 3 million euros (but launch price becomes much cheaper later when whole Starship rocket program gets going). Or three telescopes of about 4,17 m wide in each level, 5 levels about, 15 telescopes in each rocket, 8 tons each.
If payload fairing is 15 m wide, then seven 5 m wide telescopes fit in payload width of rocket, perhaps 4 levels and about 25 telescopes total, weight is 5-6 tons per telescope. If only three telescopes in each level, then 7 m telescopes can be used, but only about two or three levels until payload fairing is loaded up.
These astronomy “Cubesats” are not cubic but not strictly round either, they have shape that is optimized to fit in payload bay with other space telescopes so that maximum use of payload bay volume is used. They must have short optical system, but for example Herschel space telescope already had one. Those larger space telescopes, mass manufactured, can be sold to scientific institutions. 1,85 telescope has 60% of reflective surface Hubble space telescope, and 3 m has about 75% of Herschel. Sensors (cameras) may not be as good as Hubble or Herschel but mass manufactured space telescopes has so low price that sheer size of mirror in space is enough to attract buyers. Not only selling these space telescopes, large 15 m or 9 m space telescopes can be leased and rented, even if observation time price is as low as 1000 dollars per hour (800 euros), they will bring profits for their owner who leases and rents them. Billions of dollars of profits.
When orbit maintaining (propulsion, ion or electric etc.) system is used in space telescope, even as low orbits as 120-150 km can be used, if air-breathing electric propulsion is used. Even amateur astronomers can buy space telescopes of 60% Hubble mirror surface area then.
Also Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, or Planck probe type particle detectors can be build cheaply in India etc, their hardware is not so demanding, and then send to space, weighting as much as 100 - 150 tons.
Not only in low earth orbit, cheap infrared, optical, ultraviolet, X-ray and gamma telescopes can be sent to sun circling orbit (SIRTF), to Lagrange point, and to far away where is no dust that is bad for infrared observations, even further than Pluto if interferometric studies or gravity lens astronomy is used. Those space telescopes must only be light enough, but they can be some standardized model that can be manufactured in series production cheaply, not just one expensive telescope only.
Self-assembling telescopes in space can also be made, then 9 m or 15 m telescopes can form larger telescopes together in space, much larger than 9 or 15 m alone.
Although those astronomy “cubesats” are not strictly round shaped, their mirrors are round as usual telescopes do. However satellite bus need to be as compact as possible so empty space in payload bay must be filled. The additional space left in satellite bus on the corners can be filled with satellite s internal systems, or additional small 0,1-0,2 m telescope that has different wavelength than main mirror / main camera. This smaller telescope points at the same direction as main telescope, it is spectrographic, photometric etc. special small telescope. There can be several small telescopes and then one big main mirror / heavy camera in each astronomy “cubesat”. Those cubesats can weight from about 75 kg to up to 40 - 50 tons, or if only one space telescope is in one Starship launch, weight can be about 150 ton maximum in mass manufactured astronomy “cubesat”.
Particle physics, gamma and X-ray astronomy, ultraviolet astronomy can have unified standard satellite bus too, one satellite bus type can be converted to particle detection, gamma ray or X-ray or far ultraviolet telescope simply changing optics and sensors, but other systems of satellite bus stay the same. Standard astronomy satellite bus types can be manufactured in different countries, in India, China, Russia, USA etc. Under telescope mirror is round torus- or other shaped place for satellite systems too so that empty space behind curved mirror is filled with satellite electronics etc.

In netpage centauri-dreams org is “A method for creating enormous space telescopes”, and comments section below that article. Inflatable telescopes can be much bigger than rigid telescopes in space, but their accuracy is probably much less. But they can be used in spectroscopic studies etc. that don t need best available accuracy. Netpage Space Academy has “Satellite orbital life”. Additional propulsion system can however maintain satellite orbit, ion propulsion, electric propulsion, electric air-breathing propulsion etc.
Also inflatable space telescopes can have their own “Cubesat” classes, (cubesat here means every kind of mass manufactured space telescopes from few dozen kg weight to 150 tons and more. All inflatable space telescopes are limited to optical and infrared spectrum. Radio astronomy telescopes can have their own mass manufactured standardized classes too.
When satellite bus is standardized, same standardized satellite bus and its subsystems can be manufactured in many different countries across the globe, In India, China, Russia, Europe, USA etc.
If Starship rocket is fully expendable, also second stage is used only once, perhaps then payload can be as much as 200 tons? so just one astronomical space telescope can weight 200 tons or space telescope plus booster stage weight together 200 tons, that launches this telescope to faraway space, or at least to Lagrange point.
If nanocellusose is eight times stronger than steel, and Starship rocket is build from steel, why not build it using nanocellulose. Rocket is then fully expendable and cannot be used second time?
Air launch to orbit is another cheap way to reach space, but when Stratolaunch ceased attempt to space operations that option is no more (until Stratolaunch - owner starts space operations again). Air launch to orbit can be cheap way to put light payloads to space, even jet fighters can launch space rockets.
“3D printed space telescope”. “3D printing in space: telescope mirrors, mars spacesuits…”
Ground based observatories can all buy own space telescope if space telescopes are cheap enough. Or buy at least observation time from space telescope owner, which is private firm that builds space telescopes, send them to space and then sells observation time. Thousands of internet satellites are being send to space, why can t thousands of astronomy satellites be launched also?
Also those “cubesats” that weight tons or tens of tons can include “piggyback” arrangement where inside astronomy satellite is not only main mirror but smaller mirror(s), and these smaller mirrors are used to sell observation time to some other institution than the owner of space telescope. Part of the space telescope price, if telescope is owned by scientific institution, can be compensated selling observation time from main mirror or smaller mirrors to some other scientific institution. Those smaller mirrors have their own camera/sensor systems, lighter and cheaper than in main mirror. Optical space telescope can also include small aperture ultraviolet telescope, X-ray telescope etc. Those other small telescopes point at same direction that the main telescope is pointing. Satellite bus can be designed so that different kind of combinations of optics can be used in additional small telescopes, or just main mirror without additional telescopes, in same satellite bus. Main mirror system can also be designed to be suitable for infrared, visible light, and near ultraviolet use,a and customer can select from list of different optical systems. They all must be however small to fit in very compact satellite, because satellites must be stacked on top of each other, so distance between main mirror and secondary mirror must be short. Satellites must also have compact width, if 19 of them are in payload bay in one level, in maximum arrangement. Bigger satellites can be only 7, or 3, or just one in payload bay in one level, “circle packing in a circle”.
It is possible that scientific institution that buys these space telescopes does not pay anything to get for example 15 m space telescope. That means that 15 m space telescope is basically free, and won t cost anything. Scientific institution sells 50% observation time of space telescope to amateur astronomers or other scientific institutions. If 15 m (or 9 m) space telescope cost 50 million dollars, 35 million or less (probably much less) for launch and 15 million or more for telescope itself when telescope is series production mass manufactured model, then if 50% of that telescope observation time is sold for 1000 euros per hour, it will take 9 years until telescope is completely paid. So when space telescope is in orbit it earns money for scientific institution, and eventually earns back all of its manufacturing and launch costs.
That would be the deal of the century. No-cost giant space telescopes.
Or scientific institution can sell observation time from its ground-based telescopes, and pay space telescope that way, those ground based telescopes become old fashioned when space telescopes are in orbit, perhaps except extremely large (ELT) telescopes. So 50% of space telescope s observation time is needed or all from ground based telescopes to pay space telescope, and astronomy satellite should day in orbit 9 years without malfunction, if that is possible.
Also piggyback arrangement where space telescope has smaller than 9 m or 15 m main mirror and many astronomy satellites are packed together in one level of payload bay, 19 maximum, and then stacked on top of each other so that even about 300 astronomy satellites can be launched together. Then smaller telescopes can have room that is left because satellite bus is not completely round but big main mirror is, and that observation time from those smaller telescopes can be sold so that not much as 50% is needed to be sold from main big mirror telescope of astronomy satellite. Sold to amateur astronomers or just sold to private persons that want to look into space for curiosity.
“Compact two-mirror schemes for telescopes with a fast spherical primary” is probably world record shortest optical telescope system ever, secondary mirror is only 0,35 times of main mirror width away from primary mirror. Telescopes can t get shorter than this, so it is really super-compact optical system.
“COWBOI well baffled telescope”. “Korsch-type compact three-mirror anastigmat telescope” 2016. “Optical design of a compact and anastigmat telescope with three mirrors”. “Compact three-mirror anastigmat with reflective lens”. “Wide field compact catadioptric telescope with spanning…” where is mentioned “origami optics”. “Flat-field, anastigmatic, four-mirror optical system for large telescopes” 1987. “LNLL monolithic telescope”. “Design of a zoom telescope with optical system with large aperture, long focal length, and wide field…” “Design of optical relay systems”. “Astronomical imaging telescope optical system university of Arizona”. “A suggested 12-m telescope optical system configuration for China”. “Folded molded Mangin optical system”. MOIRE space telescope. “Optical design of compact telescope for next generation” CXCI optical system mentioned. “MINITRUST telescope”. “Compact dual field-of-view telescope for small satellites”.

In previous post was that telescopes can t be any shorter than 0,35 of main mirror width. But there is text “Versions of a composite optical system for high-aperture mirror objective of a compact telescope” and in it is secondary mirror only 0,25 distance from main mirror width (if I understand that right). That is so extremely compact design. So if space telescope has 15 m main mirror width, distance from secondary mirror is less than 4 m. If main mirror is build like Herschel space telescope mirror it weights about 20 tons (or whole optical system weights about 20 tons)? And if mirror is 9 m size it weights about 5 tons? Then if astronomy satellite is 15 m wide but only about 5 m long, and SpaceX Starship rocket has oversize payload fairing, about 15 X 30 m size (or longer than 30 m), then is possible to pack five of those astronomy satellites in payload bay, on top of each other. Weight of astronomy satellite is about 30 tons, or about 40 tons maximum, satellite has orbit maintaining propulsion system. If mirror weights 20 tons, only perhaps 10 tons is available for rest of satellite because satellite bus must be as compact as possible, and even if available room behind curved mirror is filled with ring-shaped electronics etc. storage there is no much room for hardware, and astronomy satellite then weights about 30 tons. Very flat satellite has advantage that it has small air drag when flying in space, but that is spoiled because stray light protection is needed and satellite extends when in space tube that is used as optical protection of main mirror, so that tube spoils much of aerodynamic advantage. Tube is made of very lightweight material, it is only protection from light, and it is not telescope truss, but if not much accuracy is needed like spectroscopy or infrared astronomy tube can hold secondary mirror, so then it is extending telescope truss and optical system is not need to be so extremely compact.
Rocket must then be expendable, first stage and second stage is used only once, so that rocket can carry maximum load. But launch cost per space telescope is then only 30 million dollars or probably much less if 5 of them is packed in payload bay.
“Optical design of a compact telescope for the next generation…” 2017, “Compact keplerian telescope”, “Compact variable field of view system-Versatron”, “Designing with phi-polynomial surfaces”, “Thirty Meter Telescope optics”, “Four-mirror compact afocal telescope with dual exit pupil”, “Four-zone varifocus mirrors” 2016, “Four-mirror spherical primary submillimeter telescope design” 1984. From netpage slideshare net : “Unusual mirror systems”, “Some unusual telescope designs”. Other: “Jones-medial refractor”, Pfund telescope, Herrig telescope, Offner relay. “Weirdest telescopes available?” “A fast, four-mirror, free-form, wide field of view telecentric telescope”.
“What s possible when earth- and space based telescopes work together?”. “Three-mirror anastigmat telescope with an unvignetted focal plane”. “Wide angle cross-folded telescope for multiple feeder lines”. “Future giant telescopes: integration of MCAO into telescope design”.
In Robin Hood Coop Forums netpage is “Cheap astronomical telescopes”, that is about ground based telescopes, but similar principles how to make cheap mass produced telescopes can be used in space telescopes too.
In netpage globalspec com is “Folded keplerian telescopes” and there is “The COG optical system, four lenses, six mirrors,”… It is some kind of optical relay system, if it has six mirrors and four lenses how “compact” it is then.
Four-mirror telescope designs are probably suitable for short length optical systems. Paul-Baker and similar style telescope systems have third mirror behind main mirror, LSST telescope and others.
Luc Arnold “A multiple-mirror-telescope concept for a very compact 50-m” is multi-mirror system that can be suitable for example giant self-assembling space telescopes. But if space telescopes are build using large modules 15 - 9 m mirrors, and then those units are combined to form one giant space telescope or telescope in moon surface, it does not to be automatic self-assembling process, astronauts can connect those large telescope modules too, that together form multi-mirror telescope or segmented mirror where each segment is 9 - 15 m wide. In Lagrange point can also be manned space station. Those large 15 - 9 m mirror modules, that are mass manufactured, could also be used, slightly medified, as single space telescopes at low price. They are mass manufactured large mirrors of 9 - 15 m width, and if telescope in space or moon is 100 m wide or more, many smaller mirrors (segments) are needed. And because those mirrors are mass-produced for giant space telescopes that mass production capacity can be used to sell single telescopes of 9 - 15 m width, used both in ground here on earth and in space also.
If one telescope costs 50 million dollars, which is cost of launching it to space and building mass made satellite bus, camera systems etc., and total cost of space telescope is that 50 million dollars, if 50% of its observation time is sold for 1000 euros per hour, and satellite stays in orbit 9 years functional, then space telescope with 15 - 9 m mirror does not cost a thing, all expenses are more or less covered by selling 50% of observation time. Although satellite has also costs when it is operational (ground control etc.). But simply selling observation time, 50 million dollar telescope can pay itself, if it is in space or in ground here in Earth. So it comes “cost free telescope”. This observation time can be sold to amateur astronomers or ordinary people who want to buy observation time. Now even poorest scientific institutions can buy own giant space telescope (or ground-based telescope). Private for-profit firms can also own space telescopes and then sell observation time or rent and lease space telescopes. This astronomy satellite business can be as large or larger business than communication satellite business today.