Student and amateur CubeSat news roundup – Nov.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):

** Teachers In Space‘s Serenity educational CubeSat is ready to go to orbit on the first flight of the Firefly Alpha orbital rocket. The launch is currently planned ro  lift off later this year from Vandenberg AFB in California. Teachers in Space Launch Serenity Satellite – Teachers In Space, Inc.

Serenity will contain several experiments including Gloversville School Districts radiation experiment and Villanova University’s Blockchain technology experiment.

The satellite developed by Teachers in Space is a pioneer CubeSat (, that will provide low cost opportunities to test educational experiments in space. Teachers in space has previously guided high schools and other academic institutions in developing and flying experiments sub-orbitally with high altitude balloons, stratospheric gliders and rockets. This will be the first orbital satellite mission for TIS.

The Serenity CubeSat. Credits: Teachers in Space

The Serenity satellite will be carrying a suite of data sensors and a camera that will be sending data back to Earth through the use of HAM radio signals. There will be several ground stations connecting with the satellite during its orbital period. These ground stations will be collecting data and pictures sent back down to Earth.

How to communicate with Serenity. The best option is to connect with a local HAM radio club. They may have the equipment already set up to track satellites. If they do not, they will be able to assist you in finding one that does.

More about the VIlianova blockchain networking experiment on the Serenity spacecraft: The First Ethereum Network-Blockchain Satellite From Villanova University Set For Orbit – SatNews

This experiment will prove that blockchain can allow two satellites to reliably complete data transactions without communicating with a ground station to supervise these inter-satellite exchanges. The satellite will remain in LEO for approximately 30 days and controlled blockchain experiments will take place during the first 15 days the satellite is on-orbit.

Professor Sudler noted that the blockchain provides a trusted and immutable means of tracking these exchanges between satellites that may belong to different companies or even different countries.

Villanova researchers will grant 10 non-researchers with experience using blockchains with access to the onboard blockchain for the remainder of the flight for measuring transaction performance under heavier traffic loads. While the satellite is on-orbit, the latter half of the test period will be dedicated to open access from Villanova to perform test transactions between the ground station and the satellite.

The transaction data will be test files (text and images of various file sizes) that will create various loads on the blockchain. These transactions will also be allowed to interact with Ethereum smart contracts (programs that can automatically trigger a new transaction when a specific condition is met). All transactions are permanently recorded on the blockchain ledger.

** Tel Aviv University TAU-SAT1 CubeSat to go to ISS on NG Cygnus cargo resupply mission in early 2021: Tel Aviv University aims to launch shoebox-size satellite next year | The Times of Israel

“[…] TAU-SAT1 is the first nanosatellite designed, built and tested independently in academia in Israel.”

The TAU-SAT1 was created, developed, assembled, and tested at the new Nanosatellite Center in Tel Aviv, an interdisciplinary venture of the Faculties of Engineering and Exact Sciences and the Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences of the university.

The primary goal of the mission is to measure space radiation:

The satellite will conduct several experiments while in orbit, including measuring cosmic radiation in space.

“We know that that there are high-energy particles moving through space that originate from cosmic radiation,” said Meir Ariel, director of the university’s Nanosatellite Center. “Our scientific task is to monitor this radiation, and to measure the flux of these particles and their products.

To communicate with the spacecraft, a satellite station was built on the roof of the university’s engineering building.

Students were a part of the team that developed the satellite:

The Tel Aviv University nanosatellite was built and tested with the help of a team of students and researchers, which built all of the infrastructure including cleanrooms, various testing facilities such as the thermal vacuum chamber, and the rooftop receiving and transmission station.

** Queensborough Community College in Bayside, NY receives NASA grant for CubeSat project:

The college is the recipient of a NASA MUREP MISTC-2 (Minority University Research and Education Project — Innovations in Space Technology Curriculum-Group 2). The grant entitled, “Using Technology to Engage and Inspire Students to Explore (SpaceTechEngine),” was funded in the amount of $410,574 for two years. 

Queensborough is partnering on the grant with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Mission Engineering and Systems Analysis (MESA) Division, the Atmospheric & Space Technology Research Associates (ASTRA), and City College of New York (CUNY) to capitalize on NASA’s ability to inspire both students and the public. 

Students will work on the Plasma Enhancements in The Ionosphere-Thermosphere Satellite (petitSat), a NASA funded CubeSat mission to be deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) in 2021. 

The petitSat Principal Investigator (PI) is NASA scientist Jeffrey Klenzing. Students will investigate both space weather effects on the ionosphere, which reflects and modifies radio waves used for communication and navigation; and simulate interacting with a CubeSat for preliminary assembly, integration and testing (AI&T).

** Brigham Young students built the Passive Inspection CubeSat (PICS), which is to launch this year, along with nine other NASA sponsored CubeSats, on a Virgin Orbit LauncherOne rocket.: BYU partnering with NASA to send a ‘spacecraft selfie cam’ into space on official mission –

After years of engineering, testing and coordinating with engineers from NASA’s Launch Services Program, Brigham Young University students have created a cube satellite that will launch into space on an official NASA mission later this year.

The 10-centimeter CubeSat, which includes contributions from more than 60 students over a five-year period, is outfitted with cameras on all six sides and will make it possible to inexpensively detect damage on the exterior of a spacecraft that cannot be seen in other ways.

“It’s a satellite that is designed to take pictures of another satellite,” said BYU engineering professor David Long. “In other words, it’s a spacecraft selfie cam.”

Passive Inspection CubeSat (PICS) at Brigham Young Univ. Credits: BYU Spacecraft Group

See also This BYU camera is launching into orbit to take photos of NASA spacecraft |

Here is a video about the project:

BYU engineers are preparing to launch a CubeSat that will float in space and take images of a spacecraft in orbit and then transmit those images back to Earth. The 10-centimeter CubeSat, outfitted with cameras on all six sides, works like a spacecraft “selfie cam” and will make it possible to inexpensively see the exterior of a spacecraft and detect damage that can’t be seen in other ways. The team received support and sponsorship from NASA’s Launch Services Program as well as from BYU’s Fulton College of Engineering for the mission that is expected to launch in late 2020.

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

ANS-306 AMSAT News Service Weekly Bulletin

  • Neutron-1 Scheduled for Deployment on November 5th
  • Upcoming Amateur Satellite Launches
  • EO-88 Distance Record Set
  • ARISS News
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • Satellite Shorts from All Over

ANS-313 AMSAT News Service Weekly Bulletin

  • Neutron1 Launched from the ISS
  • VUCC Awards-Endorsements for November 2020
  • AMSAT GridMaster Award
  • IARU Coordinates Frequencies for Six Satellites in October
  • ARISS Team Attends ISS National Lab Education Summit
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • ARISS News
  • Satellite Shorts from All Over

General CubeSat/SmallSat info:

** Two new  introductory books on amateur satellite radio. The first is from the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL):

You can make contacts through amateur radio satellites, and even with the International Space Station, using equipment you probably own right now! All it takes is the right information, which you ll find in Amateur Radio Satellites for Beginners. There are dozens of spacecraft in orbit just waiting for your signals, and more are being launched every year. This book is your guide to a whole new world of operating enjoyment. Inside you will: Be able to locate satellites and determine when they will be available in orbit. Gain tips for building your own satellite station even if it s just a dual-band FM transceiver and a mobile antenna. Find a simple step-by-step guide to making your first contacts. Discover satellite antenna projects you can build at home. Amateur Radio Satellites for Beginners will introduce you to new experiences that you may have thought were out of your reach. Start reading and discover how easy it can be!

Amsats and Hamsats provides a step by step guide to how you can communicate through amateur radio satellites and how to receive signals from other small satellites and ‘weather’ satellites. The book gets right into the techniques you will need for working amateur radio stations through amateur radio satellites, then moves on to listening, or watching, signals from other satellites. There are chapters answering questions like, ‘how do satellites stay in orbit’ and ‘why are they so expensive to launch?’ Followed by sections about the history of amateur radio satellites, the mathematics governing orbits, TLE files, different types of satellite and their orbits. It covers the equipment you need, to track and use the amateur satellites and some of the satellite tracking software that is available. There are detailed sections covering transponders, satellite bands, feeders, masthead preamplifiers, antenna systems and automated rotator control. Plus chapters on the FUNcube Satellites, Weather Satellites and even the International Space Station. Amsats and Hamsats provides the ultimate guide to operating satellites and how they work. Its 368 pages are a great value guide to this stimulating and challenging area of amateur radio activity. Whether you want to get started or you are already an experienced operator you will find something of value in these pages.

** ADLER-1 cubesat – hunting for bullets in the dark

Space is a common good, just like the ocean 🌊 and the atmosphere 🌠. And as such it is subject for pollution. It is time to get more in-orbit data on this problem. With ADLER-1 cubesat we will find the “fast bullets in the dark”. How will this work? Have a look at our video ⤵️

** MicroGEO Satellites, Software-defined Radio and Getting the World OnlineConstellations Podcast – YouTube

** Jeff Greason discusses concepts for using space plasma for propulsion. Near the end of the video, he talks about the use of smallsats to test implementations of such systems. The Plasma Magnet, for example, has been extensively tested on the ground and now needs to be proven in space. The Plasma Magnet NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts  – Phase I Final Report – John Slough, Univ. of Washington (pdf).

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