QUVIK – THE FIRST CZECH SPACE TELESCOPE 29. 6. 2023 The QUVIK (Quick Ultra-Violet Kilonovae surveyor) satellite project aims to develop the first Czech space telescope optimised for the ultraviolet part of the spectrum. The telescope’s primary goal is to observe so-called kilonovae, which result from mergers of neutron stars. The observations will provide critical information about the formation of elements heavier than iron during these mergers. These elements include, for example, gold or platinum. “Without understanding our Universe, we cannot fully use its potential. QUVIK is a scientific mission; at the same time, it will help to obtain data that can also be used for industry,” explains the Czech Aerospace Research Centre’s (VZLU’s) general director Josef Kašpar. VZLU will perform the integration of the satellite that will carry the telescope. “Our goal is to build a space telescope that can observe kilonovae within the first hours after the merger of neutron stars,” explains the scientific coordinator of the mission Norbert Werner from the Department of Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University. In connection with the QUVIK mission, the team submitted three scientific articles for publication in the Space Science Review journal. The telescope also enables observations of hot stars, supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, star clusters, and galactic nuclei where supermassive black holes rip apart stars at the galaxy’s centre. The space telescope will also allow the observation of exoplanets, i.e., planets that orbit stars other than the Sun. In combination with observations from other telescopes at other wavelengths, scientists can find out exactly how these planets lose their atmospheres. The satellite will have dimensions of approximately 0.7 m × 0.7 m × 1.1 m; the weight is approximately 120 kilograms. The development of the space telescope with a diameter of 330 mm for imaging in the ultraviolet region is the task of the research centre TOPTEC. The centre is part of the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. It specialises in optics, optoelectronics research, and developing applications related to this topic. TOPTEC has been working on this type of project for many years and has gained experience on several ESA missions (Solar Orbiter, ASPIICS, Ariel…). “The biggest challenge for the research team will be the realisation of the instrument, which must achieve a perfect image performance while maintaining a compact and lightweight design. All this with maximum use of the technology available in the Czech Republic,” says Jan Václavík, head of TOPTEC’s optical processes department. Communication and data transmission will then be provided by PEKASAT, which has many years of experience in the field of communication. “The QUVIK project is unique in several ways; from the point of view of communication, it is the provision of a connection with the ground centre 24/7 and in near real-time using relay satellites in geostationary orbit so that it will be possible to start observing kilonovae as soon as possible,” explains Pekasat SE technical director Ján Segınák. For VZLU, the QUVIK mission is a continuation of its previous projects. “We’ve tested the basis of satellite integration on CubeSats; now we’re moving forward,” notes Josef Kašpar, drawing attention to the VZLUSAT-1 projects (the longest operating Czech and Czechoslovakian satellite) and VZLUSAT-2 (the first Czech satellite that was able to take pictures of the Czech Republic in high resolution). As part of the QUVIK project, the team is completing phase B1, which defines the technical requirements for implementing the satellite. The team is waiting for the Ministry of Transport to decide whether the project will receive further support and proceed to the implementation stages. QUVIK belongs to the so-called “Ambitious Projects of the Ministry of Transport.” The decision on the approval is expected in the fall. If approved, the launch of the satellite is expected in 2028. The total cost should not exceed 720 million crowns (30 million euros).