BRITE Constellation is currently the only active Space mission devoted to asteroseismology. It is focused on stellar structure and evolution of apparently bright and mostly massive stars. In addition, the high-quality photometric data are important ingredients to investigate the interaction of star and its circumstellar matter with relevance to exoplanets.
These goals can be met since BRITE Constellation obtains data simultaneously in the red and blue spectral range over periods of up to 180 days mostly without gaps. These data have a quality unobtainable from ground. Moreover, the same target fields can be observed over periods of several years.
This data quality is only obtainable because BRITE Constellation comprises the first and so far only nanosatellites in Space with a pointing accuracy of one arcminute. The proven high technical quality and reliability is a prerequisite for the required continuity of science data sets. The evaluation of the excellent satellite operational parameters indicates availability of the Austrian BRITE satellites for at least two more years.
Focusing particularly on bright stars provides an additional „BRITE bonus" which is availability of additional astrophysically relevant information such as accurate distance via precise parallaxes, information about energy production via observation in a wide spectral range from UV to IR, and the possibility of simultaneous spectroscopy with high spectral and temporal resolution.
BRITE Constellation is now in special phase. After launch at the end of February, 2013, a commissioning and optimisation phase, more than 6 GByte of high-quality science data were obtained by BRITE-Austria only. First scientific results based on a detailed data analysis could be presented at the first BRITE Constellation Science Conference in September 2015.
In case of Be stars a realistic chance of finally explaining their nature exists, based on BRITE data to be obtained.
Full scientific exploitation of BRITE Constellation has thus begun, but uninterrupted operations until 2018 will be needed, considering also the timescales of various sources of stellar variability, to produce enough scientific publications justifying the submission of purely astrophysical proposals to respective funding agencies.
Until then the synergy and intensive cooperation of experts from space technology and astrophysics is absolutely necessary as it was the case for the previous ASAP-BRITE projects. This will also help to obtain a maximum of innovative nanosatellite technology.
Another important goal is the optimisation of the low-cost ground segment for interactive operations of spacecraft from various ground stations via secure VPN connections. This experience will be of high value for future small satellite missions.
Graz University of Technology
University of Vienna