Small satellites have a bright future and not only in low earth orbit. The Netherlands-China Low-Frequency Explorer (NCLE) is part of the Chang’e 4 mission to the moon (launched May 2018).
The instrument consists of three 5-meter long monopole antennas, sensitive in the 80 kHz - 80 MHz radio frequency range. NCLE will open up the low-frequency regime for radio astronomy and will prepare for the ground-breaking observations of the 21-cm line emission from the Dark Ages and the Cosmic Dawn, considered to be the holy grail of cosmology.
‘The Netherlands has a rich history in radio astronomy on Earth’, says Jeroen Rotteveel, CEO of Innovative Solutions In Space. ‘With space-based observations, we can take it to the next level. Companies and knowledge institutes in The Netherlands are capable of building and operating a radio telescope in lunar orbit consisting of 200 small satellites that can perform science worthy of a Nobel prize.’