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The BlackCAT CubeSat

Presentation #103.35 in the session Missions and Instruments.

Published onJul 01, 2023
The BlackCAT CubeSat

The BlackCAT CubeSat, with its soft X-ray coded aperture telescope, is an approved, NASA-funded mission that is led by Penn State University. BlackCAT is designed to observe the 0.5-20 keV X-ray sky and to be triggered by bright variable sources, with a primary mission science goal of detecting high-redshift gamma ray bursts. High-redshift gamma ray bursts offer the possibility to study star formation at early ages of the universe. A wide field-of-view soft X-ray telescope enables the detection of bursts whose non-redshifted peaks would otherwise be in the hard X-ray to gamma-ray regime. The coded aperture telescope will have a field of view of ~0.9 steradian and will be capable of catching gamma ray bursts from the distant universe, detecting galactic transients, and observing flares from blazars, while simultaneously monitoring the X-ray sky for other rare and exciting events including gravitational wave X-ray counterparts, magnetar flares, supernova shock breakouts, and tidal disruption events. BlackCAT will thus function as a triggering observatory and multi-wavelength complement to many present and future facilities including gravity wave observatories, neutrino observatories, and ground/space-based observatories across the electromagnetic spectrum. Rapid notifications of burst positions will be transmitted to the ground and relayed to the GCN network. The coded aperture telescope and payload electronics of BlackCAT will be integrated with a commercially-available 6U CubeSat bus. X-ray hybrid CMOS detectors will form the focal plane array. In addition to carrying out its science programs related to distant GRBs, transients, and X-ray sky monitoring, BlackCAT will also serve as a pathfinder for future economical missions combining multiple BlackCAT modules on either a single small satellite or on multiple CubeSats, thus providing a high-duty-cycle and expanded field-of-view monitoring network. The BlackCAT design, the mission status, and an overview of mission plans and science will be presented.

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