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Celestron to modify commercial amateur telescope for space use

Capitalism in space: Amateur telescope manufacturer Celestron has signed a deal to adapt one of its more expensive ground-based telescopes for use in space.

Trans Astronautica Corp. announced an agreement Sept. 27 with telescope manufacturer Celestron to develop a space-qualified version of the company’s Rowe-Ackermann Schmidt Astrograph (RASA) ground-based telescope. “We’ve been using Celestron’s RASA telescopes in our space domain awareness and asteroid prospecting systems, and we found them to be very affordable, high-quality optical systems,” Joel Sercel, TransAstra founder and CEO, told SpaceNews. “We looked at the designs and we realized it would not be that hard to adapt them for space use.”

Over the next year, TransAstra plans to modify the RASA telescope design and substitute materials to produce a telescope that can withstand radiation exposure, temperature swings, and the vibration and shock loads of space launch.

TransAstra provides tracking data on space junk to both the commercial and defense industry. It also has a new deal to use its telescopes to provide schools use of these telescopes for educational purposes. The goal is to put this capability into orbit.

The future ramifications however are profound. Once Celestron has a commercial relatively inexpensive telescope capable of operating in space (or on the Moon), it will not take long before customers begin lining up eager to buy and launch it. Think about it: though there will be engineering issues to overcome, the cost of placing one of these telescopes on one of the new commercial lunar landers for operation on the Moon will not be far beyond the budgets of many amateur astronomers, some of whom spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their own ground-based observatories.

Conscious Choice cover

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From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


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  • The Last Optimist

    Would an astronomy club be able to launch one of these on as a satellite on a ride share? How hard would it be for them to get licensed to operate one of these in a low orbit?

  • pzatchok

    Just looked up their largest RASA 36 cm.

    Finally we will be able to compare 1 for 1 a ground based system and a space based system. for optical clarity.

    If the private sector can make this space capable for cheap then the old traditional companies will lose even more work.

    Imagine if a few of these are placed in orbit every year and then rented out for real cheap.

  • The Last Optimist: There is no law preventing an astronomy club from doing this. The paperwork would be a pain, but American citizens are still supposed to be free. You pay for the flight, build the satellite/telescope, and you will fly.

    There are also no rules on what you can look at in space. Private companies are doing it all the time, looking down at the Earth for any number of reasons, and making money providing that data to commercial and government interests.

  • GaryMike

    Celestron was kinda the SpaceX of the day. Good that a good company has persisted as long as they have.

    Good, easy to use telescope products. Durable, low maintenance.

    Back in ’85, they offered me a job. I chose the planetarium director job offer instead. I will always appreciate their willingness.

    Me, me, me. It’s always about me.

  • MDN

    The government should fund a program to launch a constellation of these tied into the StarLink network. Standardize the chassis, support a multi-sensor optical path, and then allow everyone to compete to get sensors they build flown in available slots.

    Just imagine the possibilities to coordinate an instant response to image transient cosmic events anywhere on the. celestial sphere, coordinating simultaneous multi-sensor imaging, use for anywhere/anytime terrestrial observation, continuous monitoring of new supernova discoveries to track for short term variability, etc., etc., etc.

    If they coordinated with SpaceX to deploy one of these with every 100 StarLinks you’d have a constellation of some 300 with who knows how many new and interesting instruments by the end of the decade.

  • MDN: Why are you asking the taxpayer to pay for this, something YOU want?

    I think it is high time for people to fund their own projects. I don’t think it would be impossible to raise the money from interested astronomers, universities, and philanthropists for putting many of these small optical telescopes into orbit.

  • GaryMike


    “The government should fund a program…”

    With no intent to pile on, I agree with RZ.

    Government doesn’t earn income, it taxes. Supposedly legal theft.

    Musk is demonstrating that the private sector is far more capable than the Gov.

    G’ter done!

  • Jerry Greenwood

    NASA could do this for just Billions without any participation from Celestron and have it completed in 10 years or more. They would need a new booster too.

  • Patrick Underwood

    Jerry Greenwood, you think you’re being sarcastic, but… you’re not. Don’t give them any ideas.

    As a teenager I subscribed to Astronomy magazine and built a 4.25” reflector from their plans. Finished optics from Edmund Scientific (iirc) in a plywood “tube” on a mount made from threaded plumbing fixtures. It. Was. Awesome!! Then bought a Meade 6” reflector. Could never get its drive to work for photography, but the views, wow. Of course I lusted after a Celestron 8 or 14. But, for a rural teen in the 1970s, buying one of those would have been like buying a Maserati. Why not just scoop up Mt Palomar while we’re at it.

    Still. Good (nerdy) times.

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