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

** Surrey Space Center at the University of Surrey in the UK is the leader of the consortium that built the RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft, a 100 kg microsat deployed into orbit from the ISS last June with the help of NanoRacks. The goal of RemoveDEBRIS is to test several technologies for removing debris and derelict spacecraft from low earth orbit. (Stellenbosch University (South Africa) is another college member of the consortium.)

One of these technologies is a harpoon system that was tested successfully on Feb.8th: RemoveDEBRIS: success for harpoon experiment – SSTL

See also Experimental British satellite tests harpoon in orbit – Spaceflight Now.

Another technology for decreasing space junk involves deployment of a “sail”, i.e. a lightweight sheet, that increases the drag of the spacecraft as it flies through the extremely wispy remnants of the atmosphere in low earth orbit (LEO) and thus greatly decreases the time it takes to fall out of orbit.

Two drag sail demos involving Surrey are part of the SSO-A mission launched by SpaceX last December, which deployed of over 60 smallsats into LEO. Two so-called “Free Flyer” structures that deployed groups of the smallsats have themselves deployed sails. The two Free Flyers do not have any communications systems and so the team needs the help of skywatchers to track them: SSO-A Solar Sails deployed – may be visible to naked eye | Southgate Amateur Radio News

The free flyers separated from the launch vehicle and in turn deployed multiple satellites each including Microsats and CubeSats over the course of several hours. The Upper Free Flyer (NORAD ID: 43763) is a large structure at approximately 1,000kg and the Lower Free Flyer is approximately 260kg (NORAD ID: 43760). Each Free Flyer hosts one of our 16m2 aluminised kapton sail which was set to deploy 24 hours after launch.

The systems were standalone isolated systems with no communications so we don’t have any telemetry confirmation. Drag parameters from the TLEs are indicative of a successful deployment, but far from definitive. We’re therefore waiting for them to become optically visible in northern latitudes in the next couple of weeks. Based on the experience with our InflateSail mission, we’d expect these objects to be quite bright to the naked eye if the sails have deployed successfully. InflateSail was 10m2 and (initially) transparent with a +4.2 mag, whereas these sails are 16m2 and metalised so could well flare brightly.

Any observations that could be made by the community of either of these objects would be greatly appreciated and they should make for interesting targets.

** MeznSat –  UAE University Students Focus On Greenhouse Gases With New Satellite Project – SpaceWatch.Global

A nanosatellite named MeznSat is being manufactured by a group of university students in the UAE, the Khaleej Times has reported. The aim of the satellite is to pinpoint the cause of greenhouse gases. Once the data from the satellite is shared with students, analysts and researchers, it is hoped that they can work to mitigate the production of the gases.  The students, from the American University of Ras Al Khaimah (AURAK) and the Khalifa University, aim to launch the satellite later this year.

** NepaliSat-1 is a joint project of Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) and the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology and is funded by the government of Nepal. It is Nepal’s first satellite. The cubesat will be transported to the ISS on a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo mission scheduled for April and later deployed into orbit from the station.

The BIRDS 3 Project at Kyutech also includes smallsats for Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka and Bhutan.

** A Brown University study of Canadian lakes relies on daily imagery available via Planet‘s constellation of around 150 CubeSats – Tiny satellites reveal water dynamics in thousands of northern lakes – Tech Explorist

In a finding that has implications for how scientists calculate natural greenhouse gas emissions, a new study finds that water levels in small lakes across northern Canada and Alaska vary during the summer much more than was assumed.

In all, the study explored four sub-areas of the North American Arctic and sub-Arctic and found the little-studied Canadian Shield to be most dynamic of all, with about 1.4 percent of its landscape seasonally inundated by small fluctuations in lake levels.

Cooley said, “What I’m most excited about from a science perspective is the ability to make use of this new CubeSat imagery,” Cooley said. “We couldn’t have made these observations without the CubeSats, and here we show that it’s possible to extract valuable scientific information from those images.”

Large space organization satellites trimmed with touchy logical instruments can assemble a wide range of data, however, basically, don’t make enough overhead [passes] to get changes that happen over brief timeframes. Furthermore, the satellites that do ignore once a day come up short on the camera goals to mention fine-scale objective facts of the lake region.

The CubeSats, as of late propelled by an organization called Planet, offered a potential solution. The organization works in excess of 150 satellites, which circle the Earth in a course of action that empowers them to picture Earth’s whole landmass every day as the planet pivots underneath them. And keeping in mind that the small satellites need modern logical hardware, they do have powerful cameras fit for catching pictures with 3-meter resolution.

** Exolaunch of Germany has arranged for over 60 smallsats, including many university CubeSats, to go to orbit this year: Exolaunch Plans Ambitious Launch Campaign | Space.com

Exolaunch, the German launch services provider formerly called ECM-Space, is preparing its most complex small satellite cluster to date.

This spring or summer, Exolaunch plans to send 40 small satellites, including a 16-unit cubesat for in-space transportation startup Momentus, into orbit on a Russian Soyuz rocket.

Since its first launch in 2013, Exolaunch, a spinoff of the Technical University of Berlin, has helped send 54 satellites into orbit, ranging in size from one-quarter of a single cubesat to a 110-kilogram small satellite. Many of those were German spacecraft funded by the German space agency DLR, including the 20-kilogram TechnoSat and four eight-kilogram S-NET communications satellites from the Technical University of Berlin, the University of Stuttgart Institute of Space Systems’ 110-kilogram Flying Laptop and Wuerzburg University’s one-kilogram UWE-4 cubesat.

** AMSAT news on student and amateur CubeSat/smallsat projects: ANS-048 AMSAT News Service Special Bulletin

  • QO-100 released by QARS
  • ARRL Adds JO-97, FO-99, QO-100 to LoTW Configuration File
  • New Distance Record on AO-91
  • Call for Papers – Digital Communications Conference
  • KickSat 2 Is Alive And Kicking
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • ARISS News
  • Shorts From All Over

More CubeSat/SmallSat info:


Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past