TransAstra and Slooh to offer students asteroid detection tool

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LOGAN, Utah — Space logistics startup TransAstronautica announced a partnership Aug. 9 with online astronomy platform Slooh to offer U.S. schools access to a global network of ground-based and space-based telescopes.

“We will find moving objects in space with a partnership between education, industry and government,” Joel Sercel, TransAstra founder and CEO, told SpaceNews. “For the first time, thousands of amateurs and kids of all stripes will be able to log on to the global network of telescopes that are optimized for finding moving bodies in space.”

Under the agreement, TransAstra and Slooh will work together to install TransAstra’s Sutter telescopes at Slooh and TransAstra observation sites around the world.

Slooh currently operates telescopes at the Canary Islands Institute of Astrophysics and the observatory at the Pontifical Catholic University in Chile. Slooh plans to add telescope sites in the United Arab Emirates and India.

TransAstra’s first Sutter telescope, which is designed to detect high-speed objects moving through cislunar and deep space, was installed in April at the Winer Observatory in Arizona. TransAstra operates a second Sutter telescope at the Sierra Remote Observatory in California.

Taken together, the observatory locations will provide students with 24-hour coverage of the night sky.

“This removes an important barrier to everyone being able to get in on the new space age,” said Michael Paolucci, Slooh founder and CEO. “We’re all not going to be able to get up in a spaceship, and even Ph.D. astronomers battle to get time on telescopes. We’re offering 24-hour access to the night sky that is not weather dependent.”

TransAstra, a Los Angeles startup focused on orbital logistics and space mining, developed the Sutter telescope to survey asteroid minerals. In addition to the ground-based observations, TransAstra and Slooh plan to launch a small commercial telescope within two years.

“Once deployed, that telescope will be the first of its kind to allow school children and amateurs from all over the world to control a spaceborne astronomical instrument for finding moving bodies in space,” according to an Aug. 9 TransAstra news release.

The spaceborne telescope will serve as a demonstration for Sutter Ultra, a mission that involves “hundreds of inexpensive commercial telescopes fitted out with Sutter technology to be mounted on just three modest size spacecraft and flown in heliocentric space,” Sercel said. “Our calculations show that in the first year of operation, Sutter Ultra can find up to 300 times more asteroids than have been found in the entire history of astronomy. That’s a game-changing breakthrough.”

TransAstra also is working with Slooh to determine how students could share credit for asteroid discoveries or name their discoveries.