The primary science goals of the BRITE-Constellation (BRITE stands for BRight Target Explorer) mission are studies of luminous stars (both massive and moderately massive but evolved) in the solar neighborhood, representing objects which dominate the ecology of our Universe. BRITE-Constellation will also examine evolved low-mass stars (giants) to probe the future development of stars more comparable in mass to our Sun.
The 24° wide field cameras will furthermore obtain data (brightness measurements over long time base) from other scientifically interesting stars as well, to investigate their stellar structure and evolutionary status. BRITE-Constellation will provide photometric data of unprecedented quality of bright stars in a wide range of temperature and mass. Fields like Orion (see picture) are a potential primary target areas on the sky for BRITE-Constellation science observations
BRITE-Constellation currently consists of two satellites under development UniBRITE and BRITE-AUSTRIA (TUG-SAT1), two 20 cm cube nano-satellites. In addition four more are funded, two in Poland and two by Canada.
Each will fly a small-aperture telescope (3cm) with a CCD camera to perform high-precision two-color (one filter designated for each instrument) photometry of the brightest stars in the sky (<~ 4th mag) continuously for up to several years.
The first two satellites, to be launched Anfang 2012, are the Austrian-funded UniBRITE and BRITE-AUSTRIA nanosatellites.
The test and commissioning phase, after launch, of the a spacecraft will take about 2-4 months. The nominal operations phase for a satellite will be about two years. However, if only standard aging effects act on the satellites electronics, optical and mechanical components an operational life time of up to ten years can be expected