<b>The Unfolding Space Telescope</b><br /><br />LINK<br /><br />A novel suitcase-sized telescope could revolutionise the way we see the Earth and other planets. ESA has supported the work of a group of students in developing the Dobson Space Telescope, being tested this month aboard ESA's parabolic flight campaign aircraft.<br /> <br />This experimental prototype launches in a compact configuration and then unfolds to provide a cost-effective space telescope. It could lead to fleets of low-cost telescopes, bigger than the Hubble Space Telescope. <br /><br />Large payloads are difficult to put into space because they are usually heavy and expensive to launch. Now a revolutionary design of unfolding telescope, inspired by telescopes used by amateur astronomers, is ready to enter a phase of detailed testing. If successful, it could dramatically reduce the cost of placing telescopes in space. <br /><br />The telescope is a project of the Department of Astronautics at the Technische Universität Berlin, Germany. "We called our project the Dobson Space Telescope because we borrowed the idea from the Dobsonian telescopes used by amateur astronomers," says project manager Tom Segert, who has recently completed his degree at TU Berlin. Dobsonian telescopes are often comprised of two mirrors, held the correct distance apart by long poles. They can be dismantled and transported by car to a good observing site, where there are reassembled with nothing more complicated than a screwdriver. <br /> <br />In space, however, a screwdriver is useless unless you have an astronaut to turn it and so Segert plans to use a motor to unfold his telescope. Working on a shoestring budget, his first prototype used inflatable bicycle tyres to push the mirrors into position. When this proved incapable of aligning the telescope optics, Segert turned to metal truss rods and micromechanics to unfold everything into its correct place.