Category Archives: Space participation

Videos: Night sky highlights for April 2020

[ Update:  What’s Up: March 2021 Skywatching Tips from NASA – NASA JPL

What are some skywatching highlights in April 2021? Look for the rosy arch known as the Belt of Venus at sunset, then find the constellation Leo overhead on April evenings. Also, check out Jupiter and Saturn with the Moon on April 6. Additional information about topics covered in this episode of What’s Up, along with still images from the video, and the video transcript, are available at….


** Tonight’s Sky: April – Space Telescope Science Institute

Clear April nights are filled with starry creatures. Near the Big Dipper, you will find several interesting binary stars. You can also spot galaxies like the Pinwheel Galaxy, M82, and M96—the last of which is an asymmetric galaxy that may have been gravitationally disrupted by encounters with its neighbors. Keep watching for space-based views of these celestial objects.

** What to see in the night sky: April 2021BBC Sky at Night Magazine

What can you see in the night sky tonight? Astronomers Pete Lawrence and Paul Abel guide us through April’s night sky highlights and reveal the stars, constellations and planets worth looking out for over the coming weeks.

** What’s in the Night Sky April 2021 #WITNSAlyn Wallace

** Night Sky Notebook March 2021Peter Detterline

** See also:

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Envisioning Exoplanets:
Searching for Life in the Galaxy

Videos: Night sky highlights for March 2021

[ Update:

** What’s Up: March 2021 Skywatching Tips from NASA – NASA JPL

What are some skywatching highlights in March 2021? Look for Mars close to the Pleiades in the first couple of weeks of March. Then wake up early to observe the giant planets Jupiter and Saturn, which return as morning planets this month. Additional information about topics covered in this episode of What’s Up, along with still images from the video, and the video transcript, are available at….


** Tonight’s Sky: MarchSpace Telescope Science Institute

In March, the stars of spring lie eastward: Look for the constellations Gemini and Cancer to spot interesting celestial features like star clusters M35 and the Beehive Cluster, and NGC 3923, an oblong elliptical galaxy with an interesting ripple pattern. Keep watching for space-based views of the galaxies.

Find more Hubble videos at HubbleSite: Videos.

** What to see in the night sky: March 2021 – BBC Sky at Night Magazine

What’s in the night sky tonight? Astronomers Pete Lawrence and Paul Abel talk us through March 2021’s night-sky highlights.

** What’s in the Night Sky March 2021 #WITNSAlyn Wallace

** Night Sky Notebook March 2021 – Peter Detterline

** See also:

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Student and amateur CubeSat news roundup – Feb.12.2021

A sampling of recent articles, press releases, etc. related to student and amateur CubeSat / SmallSat projects and programs (find previous smallsat roundups here):

** Swiss student team aims to launch two CubeSats by 2023 for atmospheric research. The  Spacecraft Team at EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) will lead the CHESS project: EPFL moves boldly into space with its CHESS satellites – EPFL

Designing a satellite and launching it into space is no run-of-the-mill project. Rather, it’s one that forever marks the early careers of the students who take part – just ask the EPFL students who designed the SwissCube, a 1U CubeSat (a small standardized unit measuring 10 cm x 10 cm) launched in 2009. Today, a new group of students, the EPFL Spacecraft Team, is taking on a new challenge. With the support of the EPFL Space Center (eSpace), they are developing a constellation of two satellites, called CHESS, that will be launched in two years. The team is currently seeking additional members and sponsors.

This ambitious project has already signed on six universities, three companies, 15 professors and 53 students.* The two satellites will work in concert; each one will be a 3U CubeSat bearing primary and secondary payloads. They will orbit at different altitudes – one will travel in a circular orbit at the low altitude of around 550 km, and the other will travel in an elliptic orbit at an altitude oscillating between 400 km and 1,000 km. The constellation will be launched in March 2023 and remain in flight for at least two years.

This project will give the students who participate each year a chance to learn about complicated space technology and gain experience working on a cross-disciplinary team. “It’s a way to learn the real-world skills required in our industry, like team management, coordination, communication and fundraising,” says Emmanuelle David, the deputy director of eSpace. “These are skills you can’t learn only from a book. And they will let the students become operational as soon as they start their first job or when and if they decide to start their own business.”

New technologies will be tested thanks to the CHESS mission. Credits: EPFL

See also EPFL to Launch New Satellites by 2023 –

** Brigham Young University “Spacecraft Selfie Cam” CubeSat makes orbit on Virgin Orbit’s first successful LauncherOne mission: BYU’s ‘Spacecraft Selfie Cams’ reach space, history-making cube-satellites deployed –

The science team at Brigham Young University (BYU) is finally where no Cougar has gone before, with a camera.

“Spacecraft Selfie Cam” is the nickname of BYU’s tiny cube satellites, “CubeSats” for short.

The school’s science team has made history with the tiny 6-inch space probes. For the first time, satellites designed in Provo have been successfully deployed in space.

About 60 students worked on the NASA funded project over a five year span:

BYU is part of a NASA project where the directive is, “The PICs mission will demonstrate low-risk, low-cost, spacecraft inspection by a passive, fly-away probe.”

What does it mean? The satellites are designed to take pictures of other satellites, and that’s how they got the name “Spacecraft Selfie Cam” If you watch science fiction movies, you have seen the probes portrayed hundreds of times in many ways. Essentially the probes fly out into space from the spacecraft and inspect for damage. Only BYU’s little probes are real.

Passive Inspection CubeSat (PICS) at Brigham Young Univ. Credits: BYU Spacecraft Group

See also

** First Kuwaiti satellite to launch on SpaceX Falcon 9 in June 2021: Kuwait’s first satellite is on track for mid-2021 launch – SatellitePro ME

“QMR-KWT space mission is to empower students to contribute to the advancement of satellite communication technology, and to prepare them as future professionals to operate the next generation of communication satellites,” said Nada Alshammari, Director of Educational Programmes at Orbital Space. “Orbital Space is undertaking this pioneering mission in order to create educational opportunities for students from around the world to learn more about satellite communications. We are already seeing engagement from students with our QMR-KWT educational program ‘Code in Space’” added Nada Alshammari. “Code in Space is an opportunity for students to develop and test new software solutions by writing software code to be uploaded and executed on the satellite’s onboard computer. We are currently accepting student proposals for this out of the world opportunity.”

The QMR-KWT satellite will go to space via a SpaceX Falcon 9 Rideshare mission, currently set for June of this year. A Momentus Vigoride transfer stage will take the satellite to its target orbit after release from the F9 upper stage.

See also June launch set for first Kuwait satellite | ZAWYA MENA Edition.

** Curtin University in Australia prepares  for launch of the first of five Binar CubeSats. WA space program: Curtin University’s Binar Cubesat set for launch in late 2021 | Community News

Curtin University’s Binar CubeSat, the first satellite model fully designed and built in Australia, is set to launch into space later this year.

The five launches planned for the next two years will be aided by $500,000 in funding from the State Government.

The funding will be used by Curtin University to employ two senior engineers to support the scheduled launch of five Binar CubeSats in 2021 and 2022.

This will be the first constellation designed, developed and operated in Australia.

The satellite can be used for a range of applications such as remote sensing, imaging, communications and defence.

In partnership with Tokyo-based start-up Space BD Inc, Curtin will release WA’s first spacecraft from the International Space Station into low earth orbit in late 2021.

See also:

** SriShakthiSat, built by students at Coimbatore College in India, set to launch on PSLV rocket on Feb.28th. A ground station on campus was inaugurated during a visit by ISRO Chairman K. Sivan.

** Cape-3 CubeSat built by students at Univ. of Louisiana at Lafayette successfully communicates with ground station after reaching orbit via Virgin Orbit LaunchOne mission: Students’ CAPE-3 satellite collecting data for NASA as it orbits Earth | University of Louisiana at Lafayette

At about four inches across each side, the “CubeSat” is small. And fast. It circles the globe every 90 minutes at 17,000 miles per hour. Radiation levels collected along the way via a small Geiger counter and a small plastic chip embedded inside will help inform NASA efforts to develop small, chip-based radiation detectors.

“The detectors would provide liquid crystal display readings so astronauts could constantly monitor how much radiation they’re being exposed to,” explained UL Lafayette’s Dr. Paul Darby, the project leader.

Darby, an assistant professor in the University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, said the detectors could be configured like wristwatches astronauts could wear, or credit cards they could carry in their pockets.

The research is part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative. The initiative provides opportunities for colleges and universities to conduct scientific investigations in space; findings, in turn, assist NASA with exploration and technology development.

** Univ. of Michigan MiTEE CubeSat operating in orbit after launch on Virgin Orbit LaunchOne rocket. The spacecraft, whose full name is Miniature Tether Electrodynamics Experiment-1, will test a electrodynamic tether for propellantless propulsion. See previous posts about the MiTEE project here and here.

See also Pioneering a way to keep very small satellites in orbit | University of Michigan News.

** University of Toronto institute sent a dozen satellites into orbit on recent SpaceX Rideshare mission: Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) Announces Successful Launch of 12 Satellites on SpaceX Ride-Sharing Mission | UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory

Space Flight Laboratory (SFL), a developer of complete microspace missions, today announced the launch and successful deployment of 12 satellites on January 24, 2021. The SpaceX Falcon 9 ride-sharing mission carried three different SFL-designed microspace platforms into orbit for three separate commercial constellations.

The January 24 launch included:

    • Three formation-flying, radio frequency geolocating microsatellites built upon SFL’s 30-kg DEFIANT platform for HawkEye 360 Inc. of Herndon, VA.
    • One next-generation greenhouse gas monitoring microsatellite, known as GHGSat-C2 or “Hugo”, built by SFL on its 15-kg NEMO platform for GHGSat Inc. of Montreal, Canada.
    • Eight commercial communications CubeSats developed using the SFL 6U-XL SPARTAN design.

This week’s deployment of the DEFIANT microsatellites also marked the third entirely new microspace platform developed by SFL to reach orbit in just the past five months. SFL’s SPARTAN bus was introduced for the first time on September 28, 2020, with the launch of two communications CubeSats. And SFL’s NAUTILUS microsatellite platform made its debut on September 2, 2020, with the launch of the NEMO-HD Earth observation mission for Slovenia.

“These launches demonstrate SFL’s unmatched ability to innovate and deliver quality at any size on short schedules,” said SFL Director, Dr. Robert E. Zee. “SFL is a unique microspace provider that offers a complete suite of nano-, micro- and small satellites – including high-performance, low-cost CubeSats – that satisfy the needs of a broad range of mission types from 3 to 500 kilograms.”

** CubeSat built by high school students in Sirius on the Black Sea to launch this year: Satellite developed by Sirius high school to be launched into space in late 2021 –  TASS

A space weather nanosatellite, developed by Sirius high school students, will be launched at the end of 2021. The test model has already passed the initial trials, the high school told TASS Wednesday.

“The small spacecraft of the CubeSat-3U format will be brought to the orbit in late 2021. Sirius’ own satellite will collect data on space weather for Moscow State University (MSU) scientists. The satellite was assembled by students at Sirius high school, under supervision of the ‘Space systems and remote Earth probing’ laboratory specialists,” the high school press service said.

** Two Taiwanese CubeSats launched with SpaceX Rideshare mission. The Ionospheric Dynamics Explorer and Attitude Subsystem Satellite (IDEASat) is intended for studies of ionospheric space weather. The other satellites is called YUSAT or Yushan,which means jade mountain) and was built by New Taipei-based MoGaMe Mobile Entertainment to monitor marine activities. Signals from both satellites have been detected by stations outside of Taiwan but only IDEASSat has been received by the home ground station: National Central University successfully received and decoded the “IDEASSAT” CubeSat downlink signal. “YUSAT” CubeSat is still in progress. – National Space Organization

The “YUSAT (aka Yushan) ” and “IDEASSAT (aka Flying Squirrel)” CubeSats were successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS), in Florida, the United States, at 11:00 pm of January 24, 2021, Taiwan time. The ground receiving station of National Central University (NCU) successfully received the IDEASSAT CubeSat downlink signal at 9:00 pm on February 1st, and successfully decoded the first beacon message at 11:34 pm.

After YUSAT and IDEASSAT CubeSats were transported to CCSFS in Florida, U.S., in December of last year, various integration and test (I&T) and inspection tasks as well as joint interface tests with the Falcon 9 rocket at the launch site have been performed. At 11:00 pm in the evening on January 24th, they were carried by the Falcon 9 rocket and launched into space. About 59 minutes after the rocket launch, the two satellites began to separate from the rocket. The separated satellites are orbiting the earth with the altitude of about 525 kilometers, with the period about 96 minutes, and at an inclination of about 97.5 degrees. YUSAT and IDEASSAT would be passing and communicating with the ground stations in Taiwan 1 to 2 times between 8 and 10 o’clock in the morning and evening, respectively.

In the first few days, neither the YUSAT ground station of National Space Organization (NSPO) of National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) nor the IDEASSAT ground station of NCU received signals from two CubeSats, respectively. However, there were some good news about the transmitted signals from the two CubeSats received by the foreign stations fortunately, because these amateur radio stations around the world can cooperate each other for receiving satellite signals. Based on the received and decoded signals from them, both satellites are confirmed to be alive and continuously orbiting around the Earth.

More about the projects:

The Ionospheric Dynamics Explorer and Attitude Subsystem Satellite (IDEASSat). Photo credits: National Space Organization of Taiwan

** Turkey’s ASELSAT CubeSat reaches orbit via SpaceX Falcon 9 Rideshare mission. The spacecraft was developed by Turkey’s ASELSAN military technology company in partnership with Istanbul Technical University. Statement about ASELSAT 3U Cube Satellite from SSB – Aroged

Developed with domestic facilities X-Band Transmitter, By integrating the U3 size cube satellite with high resolution camera The images obtained will be transmitted to the ground station. Also located on the cube satellite radiation dosimeter Thanks to this, radiation information in the low orbit environment will be recorded for feedback for design improvements.

More at

** AMSAT news on student and amateur CubeSat/smallsat projects:

ANS-017 AMSAT News Service Weekly News Bulletin – ANS –

  • RadFxSat-2 Launch Delayed Until Sunday, January 17, 2021
  • November/December 2020 AMSAT Journal Now Online
  • UVSQsat Scheduled for January 21, 2021 Launch
  • Seven US Schools Moved Forward in ARISS Selection Process
  • CubeSat to Test Harnessing Earth’s Magnetic Field for Propulsion
  • CHESS CubeSat Constellation to Carry FUNcube Transponders
  • International Amateur Radio Union Preparing for WRC-23
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • ARISS News
  • Satellite Shorts from All Over

ANS-024 AMSAT News Service Weekly Bulletins – ANS –

  • Update on the Status of RadFxSat-2 / Fox-1E
  • UVSQ-SAT Launch Now January 24th
  • Changes to AMSAT-NA TLE Distribution for January 21, 2021
  • Service to be Terminated
  • ARISS News
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • Satellite Shorts from All Over

ANS-028 AMSAT News Service Special Bulletin – ANS –

  • RadFxSat-2 Signals Detected, AMSAT Engineering Continues to Assess Status

ANS-031 AMSAT News Service Weekly Bulletin – ANS –

  • RadFxSat-2 Update – (January 29, 2021)
  • RadFxSat-2 Signals Detected, AMSAT Engineering Continues to Assess Status (January 28, 2021)
  • ARISS Operations Situation
  • Changes to AMSAT-NA TLE Distribution for January 28, 2021
  • QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo to Include Speaker Track on Amateur Radio Satellites
  • Ham Radio’s SuitSat Returns in Short Horror Film
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • ARISS News
  • Satellite Shorts from All Over
  • Iodine Thruster Could Slow Space Junk Accumulation

ANS-038 AMSAT Weekly News Bulletin – ANS –

  • RadFxSat-2/Fox-1E Is Designated AMSAT-OSCAR 109 (AO-109)
  • SN9 Starship Test Launch: Otherwise successful test ends in a fireball
  • CAPE-3 Updates and iGate Request
  • First QO-100 satellite contact from Indonesia
  • ARISS Call for Proposals: Contacts for January to June 2022
  • Changes to AMSAT-NA TLE Distribution for February 4, 2021
  • ARISS News
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • Satellite Shorts From All Over

General CubeSat/SmallSat info:

** Payload Profile #1: Launch Demo 2 | Virgin Orbit

As our first ever batch of customers begin to downlink data from their satellites, let’s take a deeper dive into each of the missions that flew onboard LauncherOne this month. First up are CACTUS-1, ExoCube, and CAPE-3. To learn more about our Launch Demo 2 mission, visit our website:

** Payload Profile #2: Launch Demo 2 | Virgin Orbit

From scientific experiments to tech demonstrations, we’re taking a closer look at each of the missions that flew to space onboard #LaunchDemo2. This week, the spotlight is on MITEE-1, PICS and PolarCub.

** Payload Deep Dive #3: Launch Demo 2 | Virgin Orbit

From scientific experiments to tech demonstrations, we’re taking a closer look at each of the missions that flew to space onboard #LaunchDemo2​. Tune in to our last of three Payload Profiles learn a bit more about Q-Pace, RadFXSat-2, and TechEdSat-7. 

** Into a Shoebox: The Incredible Journey of RainCube and Tempest-D – NASA JPL (See also A Pioneering NASA Mini Weather Satellite Ends Its Mission – NASA JPL)

On June 25, 2018, RainCube and Tempest-D were deployed from the International Space Station. Both are 6U CubeSats developed by NASA-JPL as instrument technology demonstrations. RainCube implemented the first precipitation radar in a CubeSat and Tempest-D tested the performance of a CubeSat microwave radiometer to observe precipitation and clouds. Together, they became the first CubeSats to measure precipitation from space, with Raincube providing detailed vertical structure information and Tempest-D providing coarse vertical and detailed horizontal structure.

** Navigating SmallSat Development: Where to Begin and What to Expect | NASA – Speaker: Dr. Charles D. Norton, NASA Headquarters / Jet Propulsion Laboratory, CalTech. Presentation slides (pdf)

** NASA and Smallsat Cost Estimation Overview and Model Tools | NASA – Speaker: Michael Saing, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology – Presentation slides (pdf)

** Natalya Bailey: Rocket Engines and Electric Spacecraft Propulsion | Lex Fridman Podcast #157

Natalya Bailey is a rocket propulsion engineer from MIT and now CTO of Accion Systems.

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Videos: Night sky highlights for February 2021

[ Update: What’s Up: February 2021 Skywatching Tips from NASA – NASA JPL

What are some skywatching highlights in February 2021? Find Mars all month after sunset, especially on the night of NASA’s planned rover landing, Feb. 18. Then watch the Moon glide across the Winter Circle before it pays a visit to the bright stars of the constellation Gemini. Additional information about topics covered in this episode of What’s Up, along with still images from the video, and the video transcript, are available at….


** Tonight’s Sky: FebruarySpace Telescope Science Institute

In February, the Winter Triangle is your guide to the night sky: The northern hemisphere is treated to views of the stars Procyon, Sirius, and Betelgeuse. Keep watching for the awe-inspiring space-based views of the Orion Nebula, which is sculpted by the stellar winds of central bright stars.

** What to see in the night sky, February 2021BBC Sky at Night Magazine

Find out what’s visible in the night sky tonight with our stargazing guide to February 2021.

** What’s in the Night Sky February 2021 #WITNSAlyn Wallace

See also:

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Envisioning Exoplanets:
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Virgin Orbit to Launch Stem Education Payloads for UK’s Junior Astronaut program

An announcement from Virgin Orbit and UK’s Junior Astronaut program:

Virgin Orbit to Launch Stem Education Payloads for UK’s Junior Astronaut
Junior Astronaut’s Nanonaut Satellite Can be Tracked from Space Via Smartphone App,
Helping to Inspire a New Generation of Space Enthusiasts

Long Beach, California — January 8, 2021 — Virgin Orbit, the California-based responsive space launch company, announced today that it has signed a launch services agreement with Junior Astronaut, a UK-based company that provides Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education programs for young space enthusiasts. Flying as a rideshare onboard several upcoming missions — including missions from Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay, UK — Junior Astronaut’s Nanonaut payload will remain affixed to LauncherOne’s upper stage.

LauncherOne rocket released from carrier aircraft. Credits: Virgin Orbit

Each Nanonaut payload can be tracked and monitored via telemetry from Earth using Junior Astronaut’s smartphone app. The app also offers a number of STEM-based activities such as algebra tutorials and other educational teasers, supporting Junior Astronaut’s broader purpose of inspiring young students to become more engaged and excited about space.

Founded in 2020, Junior Astronaut exists to encourage young people toward careers in STEM and space science through participation. In addition to the Nanonaut program, Junior Astronaut will soon offer space camps and a flight experiments package to take young people’s interest to the next stage.

Junior Astronaut to begin a flight experiments program. Credits: Junior Astronaut

Virgin Orbit launches for Junior Astronaut will commence no earlier than mid-2021.

“Knowledge is the most powerful tool for shaping a better future for everyone. The Junior Astronaut program is designed to inspire young people to push the limits of the unknown, to discover and innovate. The way to do this is education. Space is such an inspirational way to get people interested. We want space to be accessible to everyone, and for the next generation to push boundaries and move all our societies forward. Space is how they will do this,”

said Miranda Ashcroft, Junior Astronaut co-founder.

“With every LauncherOne mission, we want to chip away at the barriers preventing equitable access to space, so this partnership with Junior Astronaut is particularly meaningful to our team,” said Stephen Eisele, Virgin Orbit’s vice president of business development. “These Nanonauts are all about getting students to recognize that they too can have a role in shaping the future of space, and we’re really excited to help bring them into the fold. These are the kinds of missions that will capture the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s space innovators.”

Virgin Orbit is in the midst of final preparations for Launch Demo 2, its second orbital test flight with the LauncherOne system, currently expected to occur in mid-January.

About Virgin Orbit: Virgin Orbit builds and operates the most flexible and responsive satellite launcher ever invented: LauncherOne, a dedicated launch service for commercial and government-built small satellites. LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and will be air-launched from our modified 747-400 carrier aircraft – allowing us to operate from locations all over the world in order to best serve each customer’s needs. Virgin Orbit’s systems are currently in an advanced stage of testing, with initial orbital launches expected soon. To learn more or to apply to join Virgin Orbit’s talented and growing team, visit

About Junior Astronaut: Junior Astronaut is a worldwide charitable organization that wants to awaken young people’s curiosity and guide them towards choosing a STEM career. Junior Astronaut’s vision is to bring forth a new generation of STEM professionals that will have the knowledge, creativity, drive, and empathy to address global challenges through innovation. Our mission is to create thrilling participative programs that nurture real life skills and inspire a sense of wonder, curiosity, and the desire to explore. Our initiatives include the Nanonaut program, space camps, in-flight experiments, zero gravity experiences, and – in the future – a full sub-orbital experience. In the long term, we aim for youths who start our program to one day build STEM careers at NASA, ESA, or other world-renowned space companies like Virgin Orbit.

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