Student and amateur CubeSat news roundup – Mar.18.2020

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

** The student-led GU Orbit program at the University of Glasgow aims to

bring students into the world of space systems. It will primarily focus on developing micro-satellites with a specific mission in mind and getting them launched into orbit. Students from various disciplines are welcome to become members as we hope to create an interdisciplinary environment and ultimately provide members with an industrial-like setting so that they can get a feel of what it is like to work in the space technology sector.

The program recently arranged for getting their first satellite, Astraeus-01, to orbit via the Responsive Access launch broker: University of Glasgow GU Orbit Team Signs Smallsat Mission Agreement with Responsive Access – Satnews

Responsive Access Ltd. aims to simplify access to space through the use of innovative software and key partner relationships that provide a one-stop-shop for the launch of CubeSats and other small payloads into orbit.

While the search for a suitable rocket gets underway, GU Orbit are focusing on the technical development of their satellite, which is set to become the first ever to be fully built by a Scottish university. The University of Glasgow’s satellite could be set for launch by as early as next year, creating the possibility for it to be one of the first payloads to reach space from a developing UK spaceport.

GU Orbit’s President, Philip Voudouris, explained that thanks to the tremendous effort from the team members, significant progress on the cubesat, Astraeus-01, has been made, finally bringing ideas and ambitions to life as prototypes are manufactured and tested. The University of Glasgow has a strong reputation regarding its involvement in space technology and having opened its first space lab just last year, it has shown that it is prepared to push the boundaries of human presence in space. With Responsive Access helping to plan the mission ahead and selecting a suitable launch vehicle for Astraeus-01, the company is now one large step closer to seeing this satellite reach orbit and subsequently opening an exciting new frontier for students and researchers with a passion in space.

Astraeus-01 is intended “to demonstrate two innovative technologies: a deployable drag sail and a graphics processing unit (GPU)” (ref).  More at GU Orbit on Facebook.

** Environmental monitoring MeznSat cubesat, built by UAE based university teams, will launch on a Soyuz rocket this summer:

MeznSat is a nanosatellite for climate observation, manufactured by Khalifa University of Science and Technology (KUST) in partnership with the American University of Ras Al-Khaimah (AURAK) and funded by the UAE Space Agency. The satellite’s primary payload will be a shortwave infrared (SWIR) spectrometer that makes observations in the 1000-1650 nm wavelength range to derive atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

The secondary payload on MeznSat will consist of a VGA camera for post-processing that brings increased precision and accuracy to the SWIR spectrometer data. The combination of visible and SWIR bands will make MeznSat a unique CubeSat mission, specifically designed to generate a rich dataset for exploring atmospheric correction algorithms.

** Univ. of Iowa Halosat is demonstrating effective astrophysics observations on a cubesat platform: HaloSat Offers Galactic X-Ray Measurements on Shoestring Budget – SPIE

The entire scientific instrument weighs in at less than 3 kg and consumes about 4 W. The control system brings the package up to 12 kg, while the entire satellite is about the size of a thick book.

HaloSat was launched in 2018, and its mission has been extended until mid-2020. So far, it has mapped x-ray emissions from the Milky Way and the Crab Nebula. The simple mapping spectrometer has delivered remarkably clean data, which will enable a few years of analysis and insights.

Live fast, die young

HaloSat will deorbit before the end of 2020 due to drag, so the mission cannot be extended much longer. Such temporal limitation is part of the life of a CubeSat-they are the mayfly of spacecraft. The question is not if the satellite will live longer, but if useful scientific results can be gained from such a short mission. The researchers have proven the affirmative: low-cost, short-lived satellite missions can deliver useful results.

Deployment of HaloSat and RainCube cubesats from the ISS on July 13, 2018. Credits: NASA & Nature Magazine

Here is a technical paper published about the project: Design and construction of the x-ray instrumentation onboard the HaloSat CubeSat, D.M. LaRocca et al, J. or Astronoical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems – SPIE

HaloSat is the first mission funded by NASA’s Astrophysics Division to use the CubeSat platform. Using three co-aligned silicon drift detectors, the HaloSat observatory measures soft (0.4 to 7 keV) x-ray emission from sources of diffuse emission such as the hot, gaseous halo of the Milky Way. We describe the design and construction of the science payload on HaloSat and the reasoning behind many of the choices. As a direct result of the design choices and adherence to best practices during construction, the HaloSat science payload continues to perform well after more than one year on-orbit.

This NASA video mentions HaloSat:

** AMSAT news on student and amateur CubeSat/smallsat projects: ANS-075 AMSAT News Service Special Bulletin

  • 38th Annual AMSAT Space Symposium and Annual General Meeting Announced
  • Update from the AMSAT President
  • ARISS Video of SpaceX CRS-20 Launch Carrying IORS
  • Minor Update to FoxTelem Released
  • Use the NO-84 PSK31 Transponder Now!
  • ARISS News
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • Satellite Shorts from All Over

General CubeSat/SmallSat info:

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