Category Archives: Education

Student and amateur CubeSat news roundup – Oct.12.2020

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

** University of Hawaiʻi student-built Neutron-1 CubeSat reaches the  International Space Station (ISS): UH satellite to collect neutrons in space – University of Hawaiʻi System News

Diagram of the Neutron-1 CubeSat. Credits: Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory (HSFL)

A Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo vessel berthed to the ISS on October 5th after launching on a Antares rocket from Wallops Island on October 2nd. The Cygnus NG-14 mission carried roughly four tons of cargo, including Neutron-1 and several other smallsats for deployment into orbit from the station. Neutron-1 holds instruments to measure neutrons in space, particularly those coming from the Sun.

Through the 2015 RockSat-X mission, Kauaʻi Community CollegeWindward Community CollegeHonolulu Community College and Kapiʻolani Community College were also involved with the development of this mission. The Project IMUA community college collaboration led to the development of a functioning neutron detector, however it was lost during a suborbital test launch from Wallops Flight Facility. This set back the project until Arizona State University (ASU) became a collaborator on this mission by providing the neutron detector in 2018.

“Neutron-1 is a 3U CubeSat [small satellite],” said Amber Imai-Hong, an avionics engineer at HSFL and ground station coordinator for the Neutron-1 mission. “It’s approximately the size of a loaf of bread and the data gathered by the satellite will be used to understand the relationship between the Earth and the Sun by mapping neutrons in the low-earth orbit.”

Neutron-1 is launching on a rideshare mission, which includes other satellites, and will be in space for approximately one year. UH delivered the small satellite to NanoRacks, LLC in Houston, Texas on August 20.

** CSFU students developing a satellite to study wildfires: Students Fired Up to Develop Miniature Satellite to Fight Wildfires – Cal State Fullerton Univ. A group of undergraduates at Cal State Fullerton

are designing, manufacturing and building a cube-shaped, miniaturized satellite, known as a CubeSat, to observe Earth from space to predict and detect fires. The data captured is used to detect areas of risk — to put out fires before a blaze even starts.

“This year’s fire season has been particularly harmful. With the onset of climate change, we need to utilize tools such as satellites to study Earth and try to predict and prevent natural disasters,” said senior Patrick Babb, a mechanical engineering major who is leading the team project.

The 10-member student team is developing a prototype, dubbed “TitanSat,” which incorporates infrared cameras and solar power to monitor Earth’s climate and detect hot and dry zones that pose a wildfire risk. 

** Updates on the UAE MeznSat CubeSat recently launched in to orbit on a Russian Soyuz 2.1b rocket along with 18 other smallsats. (See previous posts here, here, here, and here.)

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

ANS-271 AMSAT News Service Special Bulletin – September 27, 2020

  • 2020 Virtual AMSAT Space Symposium and Annual General Meeting [See also AMSAT 2020 Virtual Symposium schedule announced – Southgate Amateur Radio News]
  • Reminder: Current AMSAT Journal is available on Member Portal
  • AMSAT-DL Online Symposium
  • AMSAT-UK Convention
  • ARRL LOTW new user guide
  • AMSAT Field Day Results for 2020 have been posted
  • ARISS News
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • Satellite Shorts From All Over

ANS-278 AMSAT News Service Weekly Bulletin – October 4, 2020

  • Virtual AMSAT Space Symposium and Annual General Meeting – October 17
  • AMSAT-UK Colloquium Online – October 11
  • ARISS Worldwide SSTV Event – October 4-8
  • Happy 27th Birthday, AMRAD-OSCAR 27
  • FCC Deletes 3.4 GHz Amateur Satellite Service Allocation
  • Chinese Amateur Radio Satellite Launches Delayed
  • VUCC Awards-Endorsements for October 2020
  • Message to US Educators: ARISS Contact Opportunity – Call For Proposals
  • Changes to AMSAT TLE Distribution for October 1, 2020
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • AMSAT Awards News
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • Satellite Shorts from All Over

ANS-285 – AMSAT News Service Weekly Bulletin – October 11, 2020

  • AMSAT 2020 Virtual Symposium Schedule Announced
  • UH Satellite Successfully Blasts into Space
  • ARISS to Celebrate 20 Years of Ham Radio on the ISS
  • IARU Region 2 Releases 2020 Band Plan Revision
  • Two More Astronauts Earn Amateur Radio Licenses
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • ARISS News
  • Satellite Shorts from All Over

General CubeSat/SmallSat info:

** SEDS-Canada x Canadian CubeSat Project PanelSEDS-Canada

** BWSI Build A CubeSat Final PresentationsMIT Beaver Works Summer Institute

Caution: portions of the audio are difficult to hear
Build a CubeSat – Sierra Nevada Corp. Project Beaver Works Summer Institute will offer students the opportunity to design, build, and test a prototype CubeSat. Students will explore all the major subsystems of a satellite and get hands on experience with mechanical, electrical, and software engineering. The class will use these new skills to demonstrate a real CubeSat science mission in partnership with scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
– Introduction by Jack Fox
– Presentations
Buzz Lightyear
Team Oddsat
BYJ Cube
Rubble Space Telescope
– Q&A

** 84- Microsoft Azure Orbital, Ground Station as a Service, and Dynamic GroundConstellations Podcast

On this Constellations podcast, the focus will be on Microsoft’s recent announcement of their Ground Station as a Service (GSaaS) offering “Azure Orbital” and what it means for the satellite industry. Azure Orbital is Microsoft’s managed service that is designed to deal with the growing flood of data for Earth Observation and Internet of Things applications. The managed service lets users communicate to, control their satellite, process data and scale operations directly in Microsoft Azure. Microsoft’s GSaaS takes a very different approach compared to traditional ground systems. Azure Orbital leverages key technologies such as virtualization, Software-Defined Networking (SDN), and cloud computing to enable customers to automate and scale operations across the globe. On this podcast Nora Zhan, Product Manager for Microsoft discusses Azure Orbital. She is involved in Azure Space, Satellites and Ground Stations and in bringing this new platform to market to provide satellite connectivity.

** The Open Source Satellite ProgrammeBritish Computer Society Open Source Specialists

Presented by Paul Madle Over the last 25 years, the UK has brought positive disruptions to the space industry. The University of Surrey innovated small spacecraft: leveraging Commercial-Off-The-Shelf components that could compete with larger more traditionally designed spacecraft. In the last 7 years, Scottish CubeSats (very small satellites) have grown from academic projects into commercially viable products performing earth observation and other applications. Both of these innovations have brought down costs and made space more accessible to greater numbers of people. KIPSE Space Systems aspires to be a catalyst for the next step-change to the industry by collaboratively designing a new, capable spacecraft platform that is open source, all design being freely accessible through the internet.

=== Amazon Ad ===

Introduction to CubeSat Technology and Subsystem:
Orbit Design, Debris Impact, and Orbital Decay Prediction

Space In Miniature Tech Report 4 – Energiya Buran

Michael Mackowski of Space in Miniature sent me an announcement of his latest report:

Space In Miniature Tech Report 4 – Energiya Buran
Reference Book for Model Builders

The fourth installment in the Space In Miniature (SIM) short-form “Tech Reports” series of reference booklets for spacecraft modelers is now available. The 30-page digital publication, SIM Tech Report #4 – Energiya Buran,  describes in detail how the author, Michael Mackowski, built six different model kits of the old Soviet Union’s Energiya Buran heavy lift rocket and orbiter.

The Buran program, with its associated Energiya heavy booster, was the Soviet response to the United States Space Shuttle. The Energiya booster was only launched twice, in 1987 and 1988.

A total of six different kits in two scales are included in this book, which is loaded with over 70 photos of work in progress of the following subjects:

  • 1/288 Energiya Buran (STC Start)
  • 1/288 Energiya Polyus (STC Start)
  • 1/288 Energia Buran (Master Modell)
  • 1/144 Energia Buran (Anigrand)
  • 1/144 Buran (Rho Models)
  • 1/144 Buran (Ark)

The SIM Tech Reports cover topics that are too short or too narrow in subject matter for full length printed books. These are also distributed only as electronic (pdf) copies, which can be printed by the customer. It allows the use of color illustrations, and customers get their books via a simple download. The pdf download sells for $7.00 and is available at


Check out videos of SIM projects on Michael Mackowski’s YouTube channel. It includes several videos about the Energiya Buran project, e.g.

=== Amazon Ad ===

LEGO Ideas International Space Station Building Kit,
Adult Set for Display,
Makes a Great Birthday Present
(864 Pieces)

Videos: Night sky highlights for October 2020

[ Update:

** What’s Up: October 2020 Skywatching Tips from NASANASA JPL

What are some skywatching highlights in October 2020? Not one, but two, full moons; Mars at opposition; and finding the Andromeda galaxy. 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: OctoberSpace Telescope Science Institute

Crisp, clear October nights are full of celestial showpieces. Find Pegasus, the flying horse of Greek myth, to pinpoint dense globular star clusters and galaxies, and keep watching for space-based views of M15, NGC 7331, and the Andromeda Galaxy.

** What to see in the night sky: October 2020BC Sky at Night Magazine

What can you see in the night sky tonight? Astronomers Pete Lawrence and Paul Abel reveal their stargazing tips for October 2020, and show you the best things to see in the night sky this month.

** What’s in the Night Sky October 2020 #WITNS | Halloween Moon | Meteor Showers – Alyn Wallace

** Skywatch: What’s happening in the heavens in October – The Washington Post

=== Amazon Ad ===

Stellaris: People of the Stars

ESO: Galaxies observed surrounding a supermassive black hole in early universe

The latest report from ESO (European Southern Observatory):

ESO telescope spots galaxies trapped
in the web of a supermassive black hole

With the help of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have found six galaxies lying around a supermassive black hole, the first time such a close grouping has been seen within the first billion years of the Universe. This artist’s impression shows the central black hole and the galaxies trapped in its gas web. The black hole, which together with the disc around it is known as quasar SDSS J103027.09+052455.0, shines brightly as it engulfs matter around it. Credits ESO.

With the help of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have found six galaxies lying around a supermassive black hole when the Universe was less than a billion years old. This is the first time such a close grouping has been seen so soon after the Big Bang and the finding helps us better understand how supermassive black holes, one of which exists at the centre of our Milky Way, formed and grew to their enormous sizes so quickly. It supports the theory that black holes can grow rapidly within large, web-like structures which contain plenty of gas to fuel them.

“This research was mainly driven by the desire to understand some of the most challenging astronomical objects — supermassive black holes in the early Universe. These are extreme systems and to date we have had no good explanation for their existence,”

said Marco Mignoli, an astronomer at the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) in Bologna, Italy, and lead author of the new research published today in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The new observations with ESO’s VLT revealed several galaxies surrounding a supermassive black hole, all lying in a cosmic “spider’s web” of gas extending to over 300 times the size of the Milky Way.

“The cosmic web filaments are like spider’s web threads,” explains Mignoli. “The galaxies stand and grow where the filaments cross, and streams of gas — available to fuel both the galaxies and the central supermassive black hole — can flow along the filaments.”

The light from this large web-like structure, with its black hole of one billion solar masses, has travelled to us from a time when the Universe was only 0.9 billion years old.

“Our work has placed an important piece in the largely incomplete puzzle that is the formation and growth of such extreme, yet relatively abundant, objects so quickly after the Big Bang,”

says co-author Roberto Gilli, also an astronomer at INAF in Bologna, referring to supermassive black holes.

This image shows the sky around SDSS J103027.09+052455.0, a quasar powered by a supermassive black hole surrounded by at least six galaxies. This picture was created from images in the Digitized Sky Survey 2. Credits ESO

The very first black holes, thought to have formed from the collapse of the first stars, must have grown very fast to reach masses of a billion suns within the first 0.9 billion years of the Universe’s life. But astronomers have struggled to explain how sufficiently large amounts of “black hole fuel” could have been available to enable these objects to grow to such enormous sizes in such a short time. The new-found structure offers a likely explanation: the “spider’s web” and the galaxies within it contain enough gas to provide the fuel that the central black hole needs to quickly become a supermassive giant.

But how did such large web-like structures form in the first place? Astronomers think giant halos of mysterious dark matter are key. These large regions of invisible matter are thought to attract huge amounts of gas in the early Universe; together, the gas and the invisible dark matter form the web-like structures where galaxies and black holes can evolve.

“Our finding lends support to the idea that the most distant and massive black holes form and grow within massive dark matter halos in large-scale structures, and that the absence of earlier detections of such structures was likely due to observational limitations,”

says Colin Norman of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, US, also a co-author on the study.

The galaxies now detected are some of the faintest that current telescopes can observe. This discovery required observations over several hours using the largest optical telescopes available, including ESO’s VLT. Using the MUSE and FORS2 instruments on the VLT at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in the Chilean Atacama Desert, the team confirmed the link between four of the six galaxies and the black hole.

“We believe we have just seen the tip of the iceberg, and that the few galaxies discovered so far around this supermassive black hole are only the brightest ones,”

said co-author Barbara Balmaverde, an astronomer at INAF in Torino, Italy.

These results contribute to our understanding of how supermassive black holes and large cosmic structures formed and evolved. ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope, currently under construction in Chile, will be able to build on this research by observing many more fainter galaxies around massive black holes in the early Universe using its powerful instruments.


=== Amazon Ad ===

More Things in the Heavens:
How Infrared Astronomy Is Expanding Our View of the Universe

Student and amateur CubeSat news roundup – Sept.24.2020

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

** Western University (Canada) and Arizona State teams to collaborate on CubeSat project:

[On Sept. 23rd] …Western signed a game-changing memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the MILO Institute, a non-profit research collaboration led by Arizona State University and supported by Lockheed Martin and its subsidiary GEOshare.

As part of the agreement, [Electrical and computer engineering professor Jayshri] Sabarinathan and her Western Space collaborators will contribute a one-unit CubeSat (a square-shaped miniature satellite roughly the size of a Rubik’s cube) to a MILO Institute and University of Texas at El Paso flight mission planned for June 2021 – an aggressive timeline, she admits, but that just adds to the excitement.

The project will contribute to development of technology for lunar and other deep space exploration.

Sabarinathan is also leading the Western Institute of Earth & Space Exploration team in another CubeSat project:

For the past two years, Sabarinathan and her team have been designing, developing and constructing a CubeSat with research partners at Nunavut Arctic College and Canadensys Aerospace Corporation, scheduled for launch in 2022. Ukpik-1, a two-unit CubeSat project outfitted with 360-degree imaging VR cameras and funded by the Canadian Space Agency, will fly to the International Space Station in two years. Next summer’s ‘bonus’ launch provides the team with an unexpected – but most-opportune – test run for its endeavour.

** Imperial College group delivers miniature magnetometer instrument for ESA RadCube mission to study the solar wind: Imperial completes new space mission instrument despite lockdown challenges – Imperial College London

The RadCube mission is designed to test new technologies for monitoring space weather – the variations in the solar wind coming from the Sun, which can disrupt and damage satellites and infrastructure on Earth.

RadCube is a ‘cubesat’ mission, which are designed to use smaller, cheaper and lower-power components than traditional space missions. The technologies in RadCube, if proven to work well in space, could be used in a range of future missions, such as constellations of multiple cubesats working together to measure the solar wind. CubeSat spacecraft are typically constructed upon multiples of 10 × 10 × 10 cm cubes, and RadCube is made up of three of these base units.

Imperial academics and technicians from the Department of Physics this week delivered a miniature magnetometer to the project in Hungary – an instrument that measures the interactions between the Earth’s magnetic field and that carried by the solar wind, which is a major component of space weather monitoring.

Rendering of the RadCube satellite. The MAGIC instrument sits on the end of the boom at the bottom. Credits: Imperial College

The individual detectors on their instrument – called MAGIC (MAGnetometer from Imperial College) – are less than a millimetre in size, and the total instrument sensor is only four centimetres cubed. This is in comparison to the sophisticated magnetometers the lab builds for large and expensive space missions, such as the recent Solar Orbiter mission and the upcoming JUICE mission, which are much larger and weigh a couple of kilograms.

The MAGIC instrument also uses less than a watt of power, compared to up to 20 watts for the larger instruments. While MAGIC is not as sensitive as these larger instruments, as it is much cheaper to build and uses far less power, the technology could be carried on several spacecraft working in tandem. In this way, the lower-quality data is compensated by a much larger volume of data.

The MAGIC (MAGnetometer from Imperial College) for the RadCube spacecraft. Credits: Imperial College

** Update on the UAE MeznSat student satellite: Mini satellite developed by UAE students to launch this month – The National

A miniature satellite developed by university students in the UAE to observe the country’s climate will launch later this month.

MeznSat was funded by the UAE Space Agency and built by engineering and science students at the Khalifa University and American University of Ras Al Khaimah (Aurak).

MeznSat’s initial lift-off was scheduled for the end of 2019, however it was delayed twice and will now blast into the skies on a Soyuz-2b rocket from Russia on September 28.

It is the third miniature satellite – known as a CubeSat – constructed in the Emirates.

See previous postings about the MeznSat project here, here, and here.

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

ANS-257 AMSAT News Service Special Bulletin

  • Virtual 2020 AMSAT Space Symposium and Annual General Meeting on October 17, 2020
  • AMSAT Virtual Symposium Call for Papers
  • Preparations Continue for World Radiocommunication Conference 2023
  • Changes to AMSAT-NA TLE Distribution for September 10, 2020
  • AMSAT-DL Announces Virtual Satellite Symposium September 26, 2020
  • AMSAT-UK Announces Colloquium 2020 October 11, 2020
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • ARISS News
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • Satellite Shorts from All Over

ANS-264 AMSAT News Service Special Bulletin

  • AMSAT Board of Directors Elections Results
  • July/August AMSAT Journal Is Now Available
  • RAC Canada 2020 Conference and AGM is this Sunday
  • AO-7 Approaching Return To Full Illumination
  • Changes to AMSAT-NA TLE Distribution
  • Ham Radio Club Talk Collection On YouTube
  • ARISS News
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • Satellite Shorts From All Over

General CubeSat/SmallSat info:

** Sierra Foothills ARC August 2020: Cubesats! The story of the ASU Phoenix Cubesat project

The Sierra Foothills ARC was privileged to have Devon KM6MDG and Trevor KM6MDH talk about their work on the Phoenix Cubesat, AzTechSat-1. The two are graduate students at Arizona State University, and were involved with the program from shortly after conception, through deployment from the International Space Station, to operation afterward. In their talk, they review the objectives of the satellite, talk about its construction and their roles and challenges, and detail its current status.

** Welcome to the Space and Satellite Systems Club [at UC Davis]

The Space and Satellite Systems Club at UC Davis is the premiere space-based engineering club on campus. Our efforts are focused towards developing the skills and technical know-how necessary to design spacecraft by developing, manufacturing, and launching a CubeSat mission to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). The club focuses on technologies for smaller spacecraft and cube satellites and covers a wide range of research areas from controls and dynamics to sensors, electronics and software. We are currently set to launch our first CubeSat (REALOP) later in 2021. This mission will be a technical demonstration of our in-house developed bus and technological components, the payload on the will serve as an earth sciences mission that will utilize IR and RGB cameras to study the thermal activity of the Earth’s atmosphere from LEO.

** The MILO Space Science Institute: Enabling New, Science-Focused Deep Space Smallsat MissionsThe Global Virtual Workshop I – Stardust-R

** ISS International Space Station Cross Band FM RepeaterTech Minds

Here we take a look at the brand new FM Repeater on board the International Space Station, launched on the 2nd September 2020.

=== Amazon Ad ===

Introduction to CubeSat Technology and Subsystem:
Orbit Design, Debris Impact, and Orbital Decay Prediction