The Flicker spacecraft in Earth orbit. If flown, Flicker will be the first dedicated space-based occultation observatory.

The Flicker spacecraft in Earth orbit. If flown, Flicker will be the first dedicated space-based occultation observatory.

Flicker is a proposed Earth-orbiting CubeSat mission that will test competing models of planetesimal formation in the outer solar system by taking a census of the small worlds beyond Neptune that fill the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt. These Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt objects (EKBOs) are among the most pristine remnants of the primordial planetesimal population, and by collecting a census of small EKBOs (down to diameters of 1km), Flicker can test predictions of these competing theories.

The challenge presented by this measurement is that 1km EKBOs are invisible to current observatories  they are far too faint to be seen in reflected light. Flicker's solution is to search for the telltale flickering of starlight when these tiny worlds pass in front of background stars. This is the method of serendipitous stellar occultations, and if selected, Flicker will be the first dedicated space-based occultation observatory.

Despite its small size, Flicker will surpass the sensitivity of all preceding searches for 1km TNOs. It achieves this due to the combination of cutting-edge imaging technologies and the dedicated nature of the spacecraft.