A Daytime Star Tracker for High Altitude Balloons

DayStar is the flagship and first product produced by DayStar Engineering. DayStar is an affordable prototype star tracker, designed to work during daytime from the stratosphere. Originally conceived as a senior project form the University of Colorado, DayStar flew its first test flight in September of 2012. Work is still on-going to make DayStar a viable and purchasable product for attitude determination on balloons.

Integrated DayStar

Requirements for Daystar were for:

  1. 0.1 arcsecond RMS tracking accuracy in nighttime operation
  2. 1 arcsecond RMS tracking accuracy in daytime operation
  3. 10Hz operational rate

Project components and features:

  • 1 Year rapid design and testing cycle
  • Built-from-scratch custom image acquisition system, designed around the 5mp sCMOS sensor
  • Custom-built power and diagnostics-measurement system
  • Thermally-modified COTS Intel i3 motherboard
  • Thermal modeling and testing of key components
  • 12K lines of written multithreaded multiprocess C++ on Linux platform operating in real time
  • COTS camera lens integrated with custom imaging system
  • Extensive post processing architecture implemented in Python and SQL
  • Collaborative software efforts using Git

Nerd-curious? All our code is open source and available in the mother-of-all collaborative coding hosts: Github! We run Python and MySQL for our thorough processing runs, and have many well documented routines for flat-fielding, star centroiding, frequency filtering, and MySQL database interaction.

Visit our organizations main page:

Or skip the lines and pull our code for image analysis: git pull

Fine Steering OTCCD

Orthogonal Transfer CCD as Replacement for Astronomical Fine Steering Mirrors

Motion is the enemy of fine-scale astronomy; even the slightest tremors can blur an image severely. If pointing a telescope finely is not an option, it is possible to compensate for tremors by steering the light hitting the camera. This is often accomplished using a Fine Steering Mirror (FSM) to remove blur. However, FSMs add complexity in the form of active control and mechanical actuators.

The OTCCD is a camera that is capable of shifting charge within a currently-exposing image; by detecting motion in the frame, an OTCCD could automatically de-blur its own images, all in a single package. The DayStar team is prototyping an OTCCD control system for eventual use on high altitude balloons. Initial testing will consist of simulated stars and artificial motion, in order to prove the accuracy of charge shifts in the camera. By the end of March, work will begin on a flight test model for later in the year.

Lincoln OTCCD

ISON Project

Visible and UV High Altitude Observatory for Viewing the ISON Comet

On November 28, 2013, a comet from the edges of our solar system will come close enough to the sun to briefly be brighter than the full moon. The comet, named C/2012 S1 (ISON), will come within 0.72 AU of the sun. Furthermore, the comet’s orbit is nearly parabolic, meaning it is likely to be a new body from the Oort Cloud. This is an exciting opportunity to study the composition of our early solar system, so scientists are scrambling to prepare their telescopes.

While ISON will be visible from the ground, near-space telescopes will be capable of finer scientific observations. Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO will be designing a visible spectrum optical path for a refurbished balloon telescope. The DayStar team will furnish flight computers, controlling software, ground station, and electronics. The payload will consist of, in barest terms, a single science imager and a guide camera. At the heart of the system is a Left Hand Designs Fine Steering Mirror, which will demonstrate a closed loop feedback control law designed to eliminate gondola motion down to 10 milli-arcseconds.

Comet McNaught


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