Japan's research institute RIKEN, Mitsui Bussan Aerospace and NanoAvionics collaborate on launching the NinjaSat X-ray observatory - NanoAvionics

Japan’s research institute RIKEN, Mitsui Bussan Aerospace and NanoAvionics collaborate on launching the NinjaSat X-ray observatory

Press releases
  • 2023-08-07

Two-year science mission to observe black holes and neutron stars.

RIKEN, Japan’s largest comprehensive research institution, Mitsui Bussan Aerospace, and mission integrator Kongsberg NanoAvionics (NanoAvionics) have announced their collaboration on the astronomical NinjaSat1 X-ray observatory mission. The aim of this two-year mission in a low Earth orbit (LEO) is to observe X-ray photons from bright X-ray objects in the universe. The NinjaSat team aims to observe black holes and neutron stars that suddenly brighten in X-rays coordinating with on-ground optical observatories to study how matter accretes to these compact objects.

As part of this mission, NanoAvionics has supplied its flight proven multi-purpose 6U M6P nanosatellite bus and integrated the science payloads developed by RIKEN and provided satellite testing services. The Lithuanian company has also supported the project with its extensive know-how as an advisor for nanosatellite technology. 

The satellite is ready to be launched and deployed from a SpaceX Transporter 9 mission this year.

Toru Tamagawa, Chief Scientist at RIKEN, said: “Small but flexible cubesats, such as NinjaSat, attempt to observe the X-ray sky in ways that are difficult to achieve with large observatories. RIKEN and collaborators are now operating the Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI) instrument aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and have discovered many new black holes in our Galaxy that suddenly brighten in X-rays. NinjaSat allows high cadence monitoring and flexible operations for such transient sources, which are of great value in time-domain astronomy, covertly targeting critical scientific results as a ninja”

Sadayuki Osugi, CEO at Mitsui Bussan Aerospace, said: “We are pleased to provide RIKEN with our “One Stop Service” which is an end-to-end support from the development to launch and operation of a satellite. “NinjaSat” is the first mission utilising our “One Stop Service” which uses NanoAvionics satellite platform. Based on our success with the “NinjaSat” project, we will promote our comprehensive service in the Japanese space business market together with NanoAvionics.”

Vytenis J. Buzas, co-founder and CEO of NanoAvionics, said: “Japan is one of the most technologically advanced economies in the world and I’m thrilled that NanoAvionics is able to provide both our technology as well as our expertise to such distinctive Japanese organisations like RIKEN and Mitsui Bussan Aerospace. In addition to our industry customers, we have consistently worked with research organisations such as NASA, Los Alamos and MIT – all exploring and utilising the possibilities of cost-effective nanosatellites in fundamental research missions.”

The NinjaSat X-ray observatory2 is a 6U-size cubesat to make flexible X-ray observations of persistently bright X-ray objects. It will also perform much demanded follow-up observations of transient objects discovered by the MAXI surveys. One target example is Scorpius X-1, one of the brightest X-ray objects hosting a fast-spinning neutron star and a candidate for coherent gravitational waves, as an important net target of gravitational astronomy.

The satellite has two deployable solar panels. One side of this satellite is open to space. It has two identical Gas Multiplier Counters (GMCs) attached to each end of this side, two Radiation Belt Monitors (RBMs) for safety monitoring of background particle environments, and one star tracker at the centre of this side. The main science payload is the two GMCs to measure individual radiation events. Recorded payload data will be downloaded to the ground via S-Band.

1 The word “ninja” means a type of secret agent or spy who was active in the age of warring states in Japan (AD 1467-1615). They made significant contributions to determining the outcome of battles by operating covertly and infiltrating deep into castles protected by regular army.

2Teruaki Enoto, Toru Tamagawa, Takao Kitaguchi, and Wataru Iwakiri, et al., “NinjaSat: an agile CubeSat approach for monitoring of bright x-ray compact objects”, Proceedings Volume 11444, Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2020: Ultraviolet to Gamma Ray; 114441V (2020) https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2561152

About NanoAvionics

Kongsberg NanoAvionics is reshaping the space economy with our standardised small satellite platforms. We offer efficient, cost-effective satellite products and services that help organisations launch their space missions swiftly. Since 2014, over 120 projects in 50 countries have trusted us for our experience, technology and higher return on their satellite investment. We’re a globally local team of close to 300 international professionals with dedicated facilities in Lithuania, the United States, and the United Kingdom. As part of Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace since 2022, we’re further strengthening our commitment to robust, innovative, secure and reliable space solutions. 

NanoAvionics is proudly accelerating the pace of space-based connectivity or remote sensing, one satellite constellation at a time.

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