[ 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 https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/whats-up….
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 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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Update: MiTEE-1 is operational with nominal health beacons and battery voltages! This is a huge accomplishment for our team as we continue MiTEE-1’s Health & Status Checkout procedures; more updates to come! 〽️🛰️
(Check out MiTEE-1 on the RHS of the first image!) pic.twitter.com/gl2tD2rBXM
The @miteecubesat, built by a team at @UMich, is proving out the concept of an electrodynamic tether between satellites in space. Miniature ED tethers could be a simple way to enable smallsat constellations to function more like coordinated fleets rather than uncontrolled swarms. pic.twitter.com/69lbxul4Ck
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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: https://virg.in/j7y
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.
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.
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.
Using a combination of telescopes, including the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO’s VLT), astronomers have revealed a system consisting of six exoplanets, five of which are locked in a rare rhythm around their central star. The researchers believe the system could provide important clues about how planets, including those in the Solar System, form and evolve.
The first time the team observed TOI-178, a star some 200 light-years away in the constellation of Sculptor, they thought they had spotted two planets going around it in the same orbit. However, a closer look revealed something entirely different.
“Through further observations we realised that there were not two planets orbiting the star at roughly the same distance from it, but rather multiple planets in a very special configuration,”
says Adrien Leleu from the Université de Genève and the University of Bern, Switzerland, who led a new study of the system published today in Astronomy & Astrophysics.
The new research has revealed that the system boasts six exoplanets and that all but the one closest to the star are locked in a rhythmic dance as they move in their orbits. In other words, they are in resonance. This means that there are patterns that repeat themselves as the planets go around the star, with some planets aligning every few orbits. A similar resonance is observed in the orbits of three of Jupiter’s moons: Io, Europa and Ganymede. Io, the closest of the three to Jupiter, completes four full orbits around Jupiter for every orbit that Ganymede, the furthest away, makes, and two full orbits for every orbit Europa makes.
The five outer exoplanets of the TOI-178 system follow a much more complex chain of resonance, one of the longest yet discovered in a system of planets. While the three Jupiter moons are in a 4:2:1 resonance, the five outer planets in the TOI-178 system follow a 18:9:6:4:3 chain: while the second planet from the star (the first in the resonance chain) completes 18 orbits, the third planet from the star (second in the chain) completes 9 orbits, and so on. In fact, the scientists initially only found five planets in the system, but by following this resonant rhythm they calculated where in its orbit an additional planet would be when they next had a window to observe the system.
More than just an orbital curiosity, this dance of resonant planets provides clues about the system’s past.
“The orbits in this system are very well ordered, which tells us that this system has evolved quite gently since its birth,”
explains co-author Yann Alibert from the University of Bern. If the system had been significantly disturbed earlier in its life, for example by a giant impact, this fragile configuration of orbits would not have survived.
Disorder in the rhythmic system
But even if the arrangement of the orbits is neat and well-ordered, the densities of the planets
“are much more disorderly,” says Nathan Hara from the Université de Genève, Switzerland, who was also involved in the study. “It appears there is a planet as dense as the Earth right next to a very fluffy planet with half the density of Neptune, followed by a planet with the density of Neptune. It is not what we are used to.”
In our Solar System, for example, the planets are neatly arranged, with the rocky, denser planets closer to the central star and the fluffy, low-density gas planets farther out.
“This contrast between the rhythmic harmony of the orbital motion and the disorderly densities certainly challenges our understanding of the formation and evolution of planetary systems,”
To investigate the system’s unusual architecture, the team used data from the European Space Agency’s CHEOPS satellite, alongside the ground-based ESPRESSO instrument on ESO’s VLT and the NGTS and SPECULOOS, both sited at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. Since exoplanets are extremely tricky to spot directly with telescopes, astronomers must instead rely on other techniques to detect them. The main methods used are imaging transits — observing the light emitted by the central star, which dims as an exoplanet passes in front of it when observed from the Earth — and radial velocities — observing the star’s light spectrum for small signs of wobbles which happen as the exoplanets move in their orbits. The team used both methods to observe the system: CHEOPS, NGTS and SPECULOOS for transits and ESPRESSO for radial velocities.
By combining the two techniques, astronomers were able to gather key information about the system and its planets, which orbit their central star much closer and much faster than the Earth orbits the Sun. The fastest (the innermost planet) completes an orbit in just a couple of days, while the slowest takes about ten times longer. The six planets have sizes ranging from about one to about three times the size of Earth, while their masses are 1.5 to 30 times the mass of Earth. Some of the planets are rocky, but larger than Earth — these planets are known as Super-Earths. Others are gas planets, like the outer planets in our Solar System, but they are much smaller — these are nicknamed Mini-Neptunes.
Although none of the six exoplanets found lies in the star’s habitable zone, the researchers suggest that, by continuing the resonance chain, they might find additional planets that could exist in or very close to this zone. ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which is set to begin operating this decade, will be able to directly image rocky exoplanets in a star’s habitable zone and even characterise their atmospheres, presenting an opportunity to get to know systems like TOI-178 in even greater detail.
9 CubeSat missions comprising 10 total spacecraft are set to fly on LauncherOne during Launch Demo 2, which will also mark the 20th mission in NASA’s Educational Launch of NanoSatellites (ELaNa XX) series. NASA is using small satellites, including CubeSats, to advance exploration, demonstrate emerging technologies, and conduct scientific research and educational investigations. Nearly each payload on this flight was fully designed and built by universities across the US.
** Cal Poly’s ExoCube-2 on LauncherOne. The 3U CubeSat built by students carries a
… spectrometer as its payload, made to analyze particle densities in the exosphere which can, in turn, show how geomagnetic storms affect the atmosphere. This data is then used to improve atmospheric models.
The team is studying the idea of tethering two cell phone-sized small satellites with a wire 10 to 30 meters long that is able to drive current in either direction using power from solar panels and closing the electrical circuit through the Earth’s ionosphere. When a wire conducts a current in a magnetic field, that magnetic field exerts a force on the wire. The team plans to use the force from the Earth’s magnetic field to climb higher in orbit, compensating for the drag of the atmosphere.
The first experiments to test the idea will be on a CubeSat satellite called MiTEE-1: The Miniature Tether Electrodynamics Experiment-1. The version being launched was designed and built by more than 250 students, over a course of six years. They were mentored by engineers and technicians of the U-M Space Physics Research Laboratory. The version launching now will have a deployable rigid boom, one meter long, between one satellite the size of a bread box and another the size of a large smartphone. It will measure how much current can be drawn from the ionosphere under different conditions.
The Passive Inspection CubeSat is a 10 cm cube with cell phone-like cameras on all six faces. After the vehicle launches and reaches space, the two CubeSats are deployed in a Pez-dispenser fashion. Each CubeSat then immediately starts taking pictures of the spacecraft, the other CubeSat, earth and anything else near the satellite. Because there are cameras on each face of the cube, the data will provide a virtual environment, as if those viewing it are in space themselves.
Mauritius was the winner of the 3rd round UNOOSA/JAXA KiboCube Programme in 2018 whereby Mauritius was awarded (by JAXA) the opportunity to build and deploy, for the first time in its history, a 1U Cube Satellite through the International Space Station (ISS). The MIR-SAT1 will be sent by JAXA to the International Space Station (ISS) and deployed from the Japanese Experiment Module (Kibo) “KiboCUBE”.
The first 1U Mauritian nanosatellite, MIR-SAT1 (Mauritius Imagery and Radio – Satellite 1) was designed by a team of Mauritian Engineers and an experienced Radio Amateur from the Mauritius Amateur Radio Society in collaboration with experts from AAC-Clyde Space UK.
The testing and building of the satellite (MIR-SAT1) was carried out by the MRIC’s collaborating partner, AAC-ClydeSpace in Glasgow and was completed in November 2020. JAXA started the 3rd Safety Assessment review, which will ensure that the cubesat is compliant with all the requirements of KiboCube Program. Further to the successful completion of this review, the MIR-SAT1 will be shipped to JAXA from Glasgow. It is expected that the Satellite will be at JAXA in January 2021. JAXA will then launch the satellite to the ISS via the launcher SpaceX-22 and eventually deploy it space by May/June 2021. The MRIC will be the operator of the satellite, and a state-of-the-art ground control station is currently being set up for this purpose.
Students and faculty from the University of Georgia, Athens, were thrilled to see their hard work on the CubeSat Spectral Ocean Color (SPOC) pay off when it deployed from the International Space Station recently.
SPOC, developed through the NASA Undergraduate Student Instrument Project, launched to the space station aboard a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket October 2, 2020, from Wallops along with nearly 8,000 pounds of cargo and science investigations. The goal of SPOC is to monitor the health of coastal ecosystem from space. The cubesat, about the size of a loaf of bread, includes an advanced optic system that can zoom in on coastal areas to detect chemical composition and physical characteristics on ocean and wetland surfaces.
The satellite was originally expected to stay in orbit for a maximum of two years, but a particularly mild solar cycle kept it aloft a bit longer. Rick Fleeter, an adjunct professor of engineering who is adviser to BSE, says the fact that EQUiSat’s systems kept functioning for its entire flight is a tribute to the students who designed, built and operated it.
“EQUiSat is just an assembly of parts — the success and the learning were accomplished by the ingenuity, hard work and dedication of a diverse team of Brown students past and present,” Fleeter said. “That’s what I will remember about it — the great satisfaction of having been a part of their team.”
To keep its systems running, the satellite’s custom-made solar array powered a set of LiFePO batteries, which were part of its mission objective. This type of battery had never flown in space before, so NASA was interested to see how they’d perform in an environment that goes from -250 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade to 250 degrees in the sun. Those batteries, along with the rest of the EQUiSat’s systems, performed about as well as anyone could have expected.
** History of the Wolverine CubeSat Team – Simmons COSPAR-K 2021 (Sydney, Australia)
** Understanding Radio Communications – Lecture 11: Receiving a satellite – Tutorial for teacher
This is the last in a series of 6 videos designed to accompany the “Understanding Radio Communications – using SDRs” teaching materials. It supports the lecture/lab work presented in lecture 11 of the 11 one hour sessions (Receiving a satellite) You can find out more and register to download the materials free of charge at this link: https://sdrplay.com/understandingradio
** Getting Started with Amateur Radio Satellites – Tom Schuessler N5HYP
** Q&A – Getting Started with Amateur Radio Satellites – Tom Schuessler N5HYP
Galaxies begin to “die” when they stop forming stars, but until now astronomers had never clearly glimpsed the start of this process in a far-away galaxy. Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in which the European Southern Observatory (ESO) is a partner, astronomers have seen a galaxy ejecting nearly half of its star-forming gas. This ejection is happening at a startling rate, equivalent to 10 000 Suns-worth of gas a year — the galaxy is rapidly losing its fuel to make new stars. The team believes that this spectacular event was triggered by a collision with another galaxy, which could lead astronomers to rethink how galaxies stop bringing new stars to life.
“This is the first time we have observed a typical massive star-forming galaxy in the distant Universe about to ‘die’ because of a massive cold gas ejection,”
says Annagrazia Puglisi, lead researcher on the new study, from the Durham University, UK, and the Saclay Nuclear Research Centre (CEA-Saclay), France. The galaxy, ID2299, is distant enough that its light takes some 9 billion years to reach us; we see it when the Universe was just 4.5 billion years old.
The gas ejection is happening at a rate equivalent to 10 000 Suns per year, and is removing an astonishing 46% of the total cold gas from ID2299. Because the galaxy is also forming stars very rapidly, hundreds of times faster than our Milky Way, the remaining gas will be quickly consumed, shutting down ID2299 in just a few tens of million years.
The event responsible for the spectacular gas loss, the team believes, is a collision between two galaxies, which eventually merged to form ID2299. The elusive clue that pointed the scientists towards this scenario was the association of the ejected gas with a “tidal tail”. Tidal tails are elongated streams of stars and gas extending into interstellar space that result when two galaxies merge, and they are usually too faint to see in distant galaxies. However, the team managed to observe the relatively bright feature just as it was launching into space, and were able to identify it as a tidal tail.
Most astronomers believe that winds caused by star formation and the activity of black holes at the centres of massive galaxies are responsible for launching star-forming material into space, thus ending galaxies’ ability to make new stars. However, the new study published today in Nature Astronomy suggests that galactic mergers can also be responsible for ejecting star-forming fuel into space.
“Our study suggests that gas ejections can be produced by mergers and that winds and tidal tails can appear very similar,”
says study co-author Emanuele Daddi of CEA-Saclay. Because of this, some of the teams that previously identified winds from distant galaxies could in fact have been observing tidal tails ejecting gas from them. “This might lead us to revise our understanding of how galaxies ‘die’,” Daddi adds.
Puglisi agrees about the significance of the team’s finding, saying:
“I was thrilled to discover such an exceptional galaxy! I was eager to learn more about this weird object because I was convinced that there was some important lesson to be learned about how distant galaxies evolve.”
This surprising discovery was made by chance, while the team were inspecting a survey of galaxies made with ALMA, designed to study the properties of cold gas in more than 100 far-away galaxies. ID2299 had been observed by ALMA for only a few minutes, but the powerful observatory, located in northern Chile, allowed the team to collect enough data to detect the galaxy and its ejection tail.
“ALMA has shed new light on the mechanisms that can halt the formation of stars in distant galaxies. Witnessing such a massive disruption event adds an important piece to the complex puzzle of galaxy evolution,”
says Chiara Circosta, a researcher at the University College London, UK, who also contributed to the research.
In the future, the team could use ALMA to make higher-resolution and deeper observations of this galaxy, enabling them to better understand the dynamics of the ejected gas. Observations with the future ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope could allow the team to explore the connections between the stars and gas in ID2299, shedding new light on how galaxies evolve.