Cute autonomous data Reduction pipeline

Short Description

Starting point / motivation

The long-term evolution of a planetary atmosphere is predominantly controlled by escape, a process leading atmospheric gas to leave the planet's gravitational well and disperse into space. The ultraviolet (UV) transit observations of extra-solar planets conducted so far led to the detection of a large variety of phenomena, but, at present, the theories explaining them by far exceed the number of relevant transit observations.

There is a whole wealth of phenomena, also variable in time, that requires a large observational effort to understand, effort that cannot be undertaken by the Hubble Space Telescope, which is our almost only UV “eye” and has now a very limited life-time. Owing to the large size of the transiting atmospheres and to the short orbital periods of close-in planets, the physics of atmospheric mass-loss can be studied with a dedicated small instrument operating at near-UV wavelengths (250 – 330 nm).

Contents and goals

In Spring 2017, through the APRA program, NASA accepted to fund in full (3.3 million dollars) the development, build, launch, and operation of the Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE), which is a 6U CubeSat specifically designed to provide exactly the kind of spectroscopic observations that are urgently needed to further understand atmospheric escape.

CUTE will be launched in Spring 2020. Following the development of CUTE's data simulator by means of FFG ASAP13 funding, we propose here to develop a stable and flexible data reduction pipeline for CUTE.


As part of the ASAP13 project, we will simulate CUTE's optical system and perform the tolerance analysis, which will then be taken into account for the development of the data simulator. We request here funding to develop and test the the on-board data reduction pipeline.

The pipeline will carry out dark and bias subtraction, cosmic-ray correction, removal of the flat-field, and spectral extraction. The final reduction steps (wavelength and flux calibrations) will be carried out on the ground.

Expected results

Thanks to the previous development of the data simulator, we will be able to produce a flexible pipeline capable of dealing with a number of possible in-flight complications.

The project is timed in such a way that its end will be a few months after launch in order to perform fine tuning of the pipeline during commissioning and to provide initial data reduction support to the science team.

Project Partners


Austrian Academy of Sciences Institute for Space Research

Contact Address

Austrian Academy of Sciences Institute for Space Research
Dr. Luca Fossati
Schmiedlstraße 6
A-8042, Graz