Student and amateur CubeSat news roundup – April.29.2020

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

** Quetzal-1 CubeSat, developed at the University del Valle de Guatemala, was deployed into orbit from the ISS yesterday.  The project was sponsored by  KiboCUBE, a collaboration of the Japanese space program JAXA and United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). Guatemala launches Quetzal-1 cube satellite through UNOOSA and JAXA KiboCUBE programme – Univ. Vienna .

Deployement of Guatemala’s Quetzal-1 cubesat from the Japanese Kibo module on the ISS. Credits: JAXA

The satellite – Quetzal-1 – is Guatemala’s first and will unlock new possibilities for the country and help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The primary objective of the mission is to test a multispectral sensor to acquire remote sensing data for natural resource management. The sensor could be used to monitor water quality in inland water bodies, helping to achieve SDG Goal 6 – clean water and sanitation.

The project supports SDG Goal 9 – industry, innovation and infrastructure – helping Guatemala develop its capacities in aerospace engineering and sparking innovations, such as the sensor created for the satellite. Women were an integral part of the winning team that engineered the satellite, contributing to SDG Goal 5 – gender equality.

The project has been made possible thanks to the strong collaboration of several entities: UNOOSA, JAXA, UVG, the UK Space Agency, the University of Colorado, the University of Chile, TEC Costa Rica, and the University of Würzburg among others. This is in line with SDG 17, partnership for the goals: international collaboration can unlock new frontiers in leveraging space for development.

The KiboCUBE programme offers the opportunity for institutions from developing countries to develop a cube satellite to be deployed from the ISS Japanese Experiment Module (Kibo). The programme, which recently completed its fifth round, enabled Kenya to deploy their first satellite in 2018, 1KUNS-PF, developed by a team from the University of Nairobi.

Views of the deployment:

Updates and further info about the project:

** Berkeley student-built QubeSat to test quantum gyroscope in orbit. The CubeSat project was selected by NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative for launch in 2021: Students’ shoebox-sized satellite gets green light for launch | Berkeley News

“The NASA grant is just for the launch, so we have still got to supply and manufacture the satellite ourselves,” said [Paul] Kӧttering, a junior majoring in applied mathematics and physics. “Luckily, the cost of CubeSats has dropped significantly over the past three to four years. The communications systems, power systems, control systems — a lot of those are just off-the-shelf, commercial parts, so they are quite cheap. The payload itself is the more expensive item, but again, a lot of that comes from in-kind donations from companies.”

Called QubeSat, or quantum CubeSat, the group’s satellite will test a new type of gyroscope based on quantum mechanical interactions in imperfect diamonds. The diamond gyroscope was invented in the UC Berkeley laboratory of physicist Dmitry Budker, a Professor of the Graduate School who is now also at the Helmholtz Institute at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

The student team is part of an undergraduate aerospace club called Space Technologies at Cal (STAC) that has already flown experiments aboard balloons and the International Space Station — an impressive record for a group that started only four years ago. Some of the group’s graduates have gone on to work for SpaceX, Boeing and other aerospace companies.

Boasting about 65 members from a range of majors, including physics, math, engineering, chemistry and environmental sciences, they’re currently working on four projects they hope will push innovative new space technologies.

“The NV-diamond, a quantum gyroscope, will sit in the middle of the magnetic coils, which will be encased in a box that blocks outside magnetic fields, which would interfere with the measurements. (Diagram by STAC team)”. Credits: STAC & Berkeley News

** Washington State University student-built CougSat-1 will study plant germination in microgravity. The Cougs in Space student organization is developing the CubeSat, the first for WSU to go to space. Cougs in Space prepare satellite – The Daily Evergreen

Teams from Cougs in Space are working together to build a satellite that will be launched from the International Space Station by this October. 

Mathew Bauer, junior computer science major and president of Cougs in Space, said the satellite is a 10-centimeter cube, or “CubeSat.” It will contain cameras to monitor conditions and pea seeds germinating, which means growing in an internal chamber. 

“The germination of pea seeds, the germination of seeds in general, is something that has never really been done outside of the International Space Station,” Bauer said. “They’ve never seen how seeds react in space.”

Bauer said Cougs in Space has been building the satellite for about one and a half to two years.

There are many teams responsible for different parts of the satellite, he said. The structure team builds the body of the satellite, the payload team is responsible for the pea seeds and the germination chamber and the communication team will receive data from the satellite when it is in space. Other teams are responsible for electrical systems, computing and controls, among other functions.

CougSat-1 CubeSat. Credits: Cougs in Space.

CougSat-1 will got to the ISS aboard a Cargo Dragon this fall and be deployed into orbit via Nanoracks.

Find updates at Cougs in Space (@cougsinspace) / Twitter

** AMSAT news on student and amateur CubeSat/smallsat projects: ANS-117 AMSAT News Service Special Bulletin

  • March/April 2020 Edition of Apogee View Posted
  • Long-Lost U.S. Military Satellite Found By Amateur Radio Operator
  • Let’s Take Some Pictures
  • Changes to AMSAT-NA TLE Distribution
  • The W4AMI Award and How to Obtain One
  • New OSCAR T-Shirt Available from AMSAT Zazzle Store
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • ARISS News
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • Satellite Shorts From All Over

General CubeSat/SmallSat info:

** Terran Space Technologies presentation at NewSpace Pitch in Singapore last year: Singapore’s Infinite Orbits wins NewSpace Pitch at APSCC2019 | SpaceTech Asia

** Polaris: Machine Learning for Satellites:

A presentation on Polaris (, an open source Python project to apply machine learning to satellite telemetry. This presentation was supposed to be given at the 2020 Cubesat Developer’s Workshop (… the workshop was cancelled because of COVID-19, but the organizers have allowed us to record our presentations for the archive. Links: – The Polaris project can be found here: – The slides for this presentation can be found here:… – The demo shown in this video can be found here: https://deepchaos.spac

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