PicSat is a nanosatellite currently being developed to observe the transit of the giant planet β Pictoris, expected some time between July 2017 and June 2018. The mission is based on a Cubesat architecture, with a small but ambitious 2 kg opto-mechanical payload specifically designed for high precision photometry. The satellite will be launched in early 2017, probably on a 600 km Sun synchronous orbit. The main objective of the mission is the constant monitoring of the brightness of Pic at an unprecedented combination of reliability and precision (200 ppm per hour, with interruptions of at most 30 minutes) to finely characterize the transiting exoplanet and detect exocomets in the Pictoris system. To achieve this difficult objective, the payload is designed with a
3.5 cm effective aperture telescope which injects the light in a single-mode optical fiber linked to an avalanche photodioode. A two-axis piezoelectric actuation system, driven by a tailor-made feedback loop control algorithm, is used to lock the fiber on the center of the star in the focal plane. These actuators complement the attitude determination and control system of the satellite to maintain the sub-arcsecond pointing accuracy required to reach the excellent level of photometric precision. Overall, the mission raises multiple very difficult challenges: high temperature stability of the avalanche detector (achieved with a thermoelectric colling device), high pointing accuracy and stability, and short timeframe for the development.