Category Archives: Space participation

Student and amateur CubeSat news roundup – Dec.26.2018

A sampling of recent articles, press releases, etc. about student and amateur CubeSat / SmallSat projects and programs:

** UF research satellite launches into orbit – Gainesville Sun – Gainesville, FL

… NASA launched a University of Florida satellite that could help improve the accuracy of timing-sensitive satellites, such as GPS.

The satellite is more than 500 kilometers (315 miles) above Earth, orbiting at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour.

“We’ve spent five and a half years to get to this point, and the launch is always the riskiest part,” said UF mechanical and aerospace engineering Associate Professor John Conklin. “Having passed that hurdle, it feels great.”

The UF satellite was one of 13 research cube satellites launched by Rocket Lab Electron from New Zealand as part of NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program. The goal of UF’s research from space is to improve time-transfer synchronizing systems through laser technology. Systems like GPS synchronize their times through radio waves, which have a higher delay in the atmosphere and also a higher error rate.

** UWE-4 satellite ready to launch | Southgate Amateur Radio News – UWE-4 – Lehrstuhl für Informatik VII

The University Würzburg Experimental Satellite 4 (UWE-4) is the most recent project within the UWE CubeSat family. This 1U (one unit) CubeSat will incorporate for the first time in the UWE program a propulsion system. The satellite is scheduled for launch on board a Soyuz-2 mission using a Fregat upper stage in December 2018.

** CubeSats Could Use Laser Pointers to Transmit Data to Earth >

But laser communications also have a significant drawback: because laser beams are much more focused than radio waves, they need to be pointed with much greater precision at receivers on the ground.

The MIT team developed a laser-pointing platform about the size of a coffee mug that uses a mirror, smaller than a fingernail, to bounce the laser down toward a ground receiver. The platform can adjust the angle of the mirror to change the laser’s direction.

** AMSAT news on student and amateur CubeSat/smallsat projects: ANS-357 AMSAT News Service Special Bulletin

  • Changes to the AMSAT-NA TLE Distribution for December 20, 2018
  • UWE-4 Satellite Ready to Launch
  • New Amateur Radio Packet Gear Awaits Unpacking, Installation on Space Station
  • Successful “AMSAT on the Queen Mary” Operation
  • AMSAT CW Activity Day January 1, 2019 In Memory Of W3XO
  • ELaNa-XIX Successfully Launched
  • AMSAT Awards
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • ARISS News
  • Satellite Shorts from All Over

General CubeSat/SmallSat info:

  • Venture Class Rockets First Class Flights for CubeSats – NASA:


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New Virgin Galactic video about SpaceShipTwo spaceflight

In this video, Richard Branson tells his children about his own father and relates his father’s advice on living a good life to the recent SpaceShipTwo flight to the edge of space. The video includes some new footage of the flight: To my grandchildren | Virgin


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Israel’s nonprofit SpaceIL lunar lander mission to include time capsule

The Israeli non-profit SpaceIL organization now expects SpaceX to launch its lunar lander mission in February. SpaceIL was a competitor in the Google Lunar XPRIZE contest, which ended before any entrant reached the Moon. However, SpaceIL and several other GLXP entrants are continuing with plans to send landers to the lunar surface. Recently, for example, three former GLXP entrants are involved in partnerships with NASA to participant in the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Delivery program in which NASA will pay commercial companies to take technology and scientific experiment payloads to the Moon.

Here is the latest announcement from SpaceIL:

SpaceIL, IAI to Send Time Capsule on Israel’s Historic Moon Mission
The time capsule will include Israeli national, cultural and traditional symbols,
such as Israel’s Declaration of Independence, Hebrew songs, the Wayfarer’s Prayer,
and paintings by Israeli children.

YEHUD, Dec. 17 – Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) presented today at IAI’s Space Division a time capsule that will travel to the moon — and remain there indefinitely — with the first Israeli spacecraft, which will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in February, 2019.

The SpaceIL lunar spacecraft. Photo by Yoav Weiss

The time capsule consists of three discs, each containing hundreds of digital files. Included among the files, which will travel to the moon inside SpaceIL’s lunar spacecraft, are: Details about the spacecraft and the crew building it; national symbols, like Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the Bible, Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah”, and the Israeli flag; cultural objects; materials – paintings, for example – collected over many years from the public for sending to the moon; dictionaries in 27 languages and encyclopedias, an indication of knowledge accumulated by all humanity thus far; Israeli songs; the Wayfarer’s Prayer; books of art and science and Israeli literature; information about Israeli scientific and technological discoveries and developments that influenced the world; photos Israel’s landscapes and of leading figures in Israeli culture; a children’s book that was inspired by SpaceIL’s mission to the moon.

The time capsule, along with the spacecraft, will remain on the Moon indefinitely, even after completing Israel’s first lunar mission. With no plans to return to Earth, the spacecraft and information within the time capsule’s disks will possibly be found and distributed by future generations.

Time capsule data disks to go to the Moon on SpaceIL lander. Photo by Yoav Weiss

In early 2019, the spacecraft, recently named Beresheet (the Hebrew word for Genesis), will launch alongside other satellites as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The precise launch date remains undetermined, as SpaceIL awaits final confirmation from the launch company.

“This is another step on our way to the moon,” said Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL. “Inserting the disks into the spacecraft, which is a real “time capsule,” indicates the spacecraft’s readiness to blast off from the launch site in a few weeks. SpaceIL’s crews and IAI have completed testing of the spacecraft and its systems, and are preparing for the beginning of the amazing and complex journey that exemplifies innovation, creativity and courage. The spacecraft’s historic journey, which also includes a scientific mission, makes a significant contribution to advancing the space industry and the subject of space in Israel.”

Yonatan Winetraub, one of three SpaceIL founders, said, as he inserted the time capsule into a spacecraft:

“This is a very emotional moment. We do not know how long the spacecraft and the time capsule will remain on the moon. It is very possible that future generations will find this information and want to learn more about this historic moment.”

Opher Doron, IAI’s Space Division General Manager, said:

“We are proud to be the first non-governmental entity in the world to go to the moon. Landing on the moon was for many years a little-discussed topic among the public, but recently we see growing interest as world superpowers seek to return to the moon in a variety of commercial missions. There is no doubt that the technological knowledge acquired by IAI during the development and construction of Beresheet, together with Space IL and combined with the space capabilities developed over more than 30 years at IAI, puts us at the global forefront in the ability to complete lunar missions.”

The spacecraft, whose construction was carried out at IAI’s Space Division, successfully completed a series of recent tests to examine the integration of systems, and a series of complex experiments aimed at testing its durability. Concurrently, validation and verification tests checked the function of the spacecraft in scenarios it could experience during the mission. Since actual space conditions cannot be replicated, tests are carried out in part by a SpaceIL simulator that mimics space conditions and part on the spacecraft itself. Next, SpaceIL will soon ship the spacecraft to the launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

In October, SpaceIL and the Israeli Space Agency announced a collaboration with NASA that will enable SpaceIL to improve its ability to track and communicate with the spacecraft before, during, and after landing on the moon. Two weeks ago a retro-reflector from NASA was installed on the spacecraft, an instrument that reflects laser beams and will enable NASA to precisely locate the spacecraft on the lunar surface after the landing. SpaceIL, the Israel Space Agency and NASA also agreed that NASA will have access to data gathered by the magnetometer installed aboard the Israeli spacecraft. The instrument, which was developed in collaboration with Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, will measure the magnetic field on and above the landing site.

About SpaceIL: SpaceIL is a non-profit organization established in 2011 aiming to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the Moon. The organization was founded by three young engineers: Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub who answered the international challenge presented by Google Lunar XPRIZE: to build, launch and land an unmanned spacecraft on the Moon. SpaceIL was the only Israeli representative. In October 2015, SpaceIL reached a dramatic project milestone by becoming the first team to announce a signed launch contract, that symbolizes an actual “ticket to the Moon”. In January 2017, SpaceIL became one of the competition’s five finalists. The competition officially ended with no winners in March 31, 2018, after Google ended their sponsorship.
Regardless of the competition, SpaceIL is committed to continue and complete its mission, to land on the Moon and to the advancement of science and technology education in Israel.

SpaceIL is actively working to create an Israeli “Apollo Effect.” SpaceIL is committed to inspiring the next generation in Israel and around the world to choose to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The launch will take place on an American SpaceX rocket in first quarter of 2019, and the Moon landing will be at the end of a two-month journey in space, after the launch. Read More


Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket vehicle makes its first suborbital space flight [Update]

[ Update: Here is a video released by Virgin Galactic with highlights of the flight:


This morning two pilots for Virgin Galactic successfully flew SpaceShipTwo “Unity” to over 50 miles (82 km) in altitude.

While 100 km (62 miles) is held by many as the “official” boundary to space, the USAF and NASA have awarded space wings to X-15 pilots who flew above 50 miles. So C.J. Sturckow and Mark ‘Forger’ Stucky can reasonably claim they have been to space today.

Here is a view of the takeoff of WhiteKnightTwo “Eve” with the SS2 slung beneath it from Mojave Air & Space Port in southern California:

After reaching 42,000 feet (about 8 miles or 13 km), the SS2 dropped from the WK2 and the motor was fired:

Virgin Galactic hopes to begin flying paying customers to space in the coming year. The company actually made some money on today’s flight by carrying four experiments from NASA: Four NASA-Sponsored Experiments Set to Launch | NASA.

While this type of suborbital flight requires far less energy and velocity than required to reach orbit, developing a rocket powered vehicle that can routinely (eventually weekly and perhaps even daily) to such altitudes will be a tremendous technological achievement. It has taken VG over a decade to get a SS2 to space.

Will post videos of the SS2 flight when they become available.


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SpaceMissions – a 3D Solar System & Space Missions Simulator

Adrian Wenz at Binary Space informs me that SpaceMissions™ is now available in the Microsoft Store. SpaceMissions™ is

a 3D Solar System & Space Missions Simulator supporting most Earth-centric spacecraft as well as some selected interplanetary missions (like MSL, Rosetta, OSIRIS-REx and more): Travel through our Solar System, visit planets, comets, asteroids and watch critical maneuvers of interstellar probes at any time from any desired perspective.

Adrian tells me that the program will be further improved in a “step by step by adding more space missions (e.g. Insight), features and by removing any detected bugs”.

Here is a clip showing some of the features of the program (which was referred to as SpaceTraveller during its development):


Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto