Student and amateur CubeSat news roundup – Jan.14.2021

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

** Ten university student-built CubeSats on Virgin Orbit‘s upcoming LauncherOne flight. Several of the projects are described below. This Virgin Orbit PR includes the manifest: Announcing the Window for Launch Demo 2 | Virgin Orbit – Includes manifest

9 CubeSat missions comprising 10 total spacecraft are set to fly on LauncherOne during Launch Demo 2, which will also mark the 20th mission in NASA’s Educational Launch of NanoSatellites (ELaNa XX) series. NASA is using small satellites, including CubeSats, to advance exploration, demonstrate emerging technologies, and conduct scientific research and educational investigations. Nearly each payload on this flight was fully designed and built by universities across the US.

See also

** Cal Poly’s ExoCube-2 on LauncherOne. The 3U CubeSat built by students carries a

… spectrometer as its payload, made to analyze particle densities in the exosphere which can, in turn, show how geomagnetic storms affect the atmosphere. This data is then used to improve atmospheric models.

ExoCube-2 at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Credits: Cal Poly

More at:

** Over 250 students at Univ. of Michigan participated in the building of the  MiTEE-1  (Miniature Tether Electrodynamics Experiment-1). The CubeSat is on LauncherOne. Pioneering a way to keep very small satellites in orbit | University of Michigan News

The team is studying the idea of tethering two cell phone-sized small satellites with a wire 10 to 30 meters long that is able to drive current in either direction using power from solar panels and closing the electrical circuit through the Earth’s ionosphere. When a wire conducts a current in a magnetic field, that magnetic field exerts a force on the wire. The team plans to use the force from the Earth’s magnetic field to climb higher in orbit, compensating for the drag of the atmosphere.

The first experiments to test the idea will be on a CubeSat satellite called MiTEE-1: The Miniature Tether Electrodynamics Experiment-1. The version being launched was designed and built by more than 250 students, over a course of six years. They were mentored by engineers and technicians of the U-M Space Physics Research Laboratory. The version launching now will have a deployable rigid boom, one meter long, between one satellite the size of a bread box and another the size of a large smartphone. It will measure how much current can be drawn from the ionosphere under different conditions.

** Brigham Young University students built the two Passive Inspection CubeSats (PICs) that will demonstrate in-space smallsat inspection operations after reaching space on Virgin Orbit LauncherOne flight. BYU students launch an idea into space with help from NASA – The Daily Universe

The Passive Inspection CubeSat is a 10 cm cube with cell phone-like cameras on all six faces. After the vehicle launches and reaches space, the two CubeSats are deployed in a Pez-dispenser fashion. Each CubeSat then immediately starts taking pictures of the spacecraft, the other CubeSat, earth and anything else near the satellite. Because there are cameras on each face of the cube, the data will provide a virtual environment, as if those viewing it are in space themselves.

** MIR-SAT1 (Mauritius Imagery and Radio – Satellite 1) to be first Mauritius satellite: 2020 in Review – Mauritius Space Program – Space in Africa

Mauritius was the winner of the 3rd round UNOOSA/JAXA KiboCube Programme in 2018 whereby Mauritius was awarded (by JAXA) the opportunity to build and deploy, for the first time in its history, a 1U Cube Satellite through the International Space Station (ISS). The MIR-SAT1 will be sent by JAXA to the International Space Station (ISS) and deployed from the Japanese Experiment Module (Kibo) “KiboCUBE”.

The first 1U Mauritian nanosatellite, MIR-SAT1 (Mauritius Imagery and Radio – Satellite 1) was designed by a team of Mauritian Engineers and an experienced Radio Amateur from the Mauritius Amateur Radio Society in collaboration with experts from AAC-Clyde Space UK.

The testing and building of the satellite (MIR-SAT1) was carried out by the MRIC’s collaborating partner, AAC-ClydeSpace in Glasgow and was completed in November 2020. JAXA started the 3rd Safety Assessment review, which will ensure that the cubesat is compliant with all the requirements of KiboCube Program. Further to the successful completion of this review, the MIR-SAT1 will be shipped to JAXA from Glasgow. It is expected that the Satellite will be at JAXA in January 2021. JAXA will then launch the satellite to the ISS via the launcher SpaceX-22 and eventually deploy it space by May/June 2021. The MRIC will be the operator of the satellite, and a state-of-the-art ground control station is currently being set up for this purpose.

See also Mauritius to Launch its First CubeSat in 2021 – ARRL.

**  Students at Univ. of Georgia built CubeSat Spectral Ocean Color (SPOC), recently deployed from the International Space Station. University of Georgia Students Launch CubeSat with NASA | NASA

Students and faculty from the University of Georgia, Athens, were thrilled to see their hard work on the CubeSat Spectral Ocean Color (SPOC) pay off when it deployed from the International Space Station recently.

SPOC, developed through the NASA Undergraduate Student Instrument Project, launched to the space station aboard a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket October 2, 2020, from Wallops along with nearly 8,000 pounds of cargo and science investigations. The goal of SPOC is to monitor the health of coastal ecosystem from space. The cubesat, about the size of a loaf of bread, includes an advanced optic system that can zoom in on coastal areas to detect chemical composition and physical characteristics on ocean and wetland surfaces.

** Brown University’s student-built EQUiSat, launched in 2018, reentered last December: 14,000 loops around the Earth later, Brown student satellite ends its mission | Brown University

The satellite was originally expected to stay in orbit for a maximum of two years, but a particularly mild solar cycle kept it aloft a bit longer. Rick Fleeter, an adjunct professor of engineering who is adviser to BSE, says the fact that EQUiSat’s systems kept functioning for its entire flight is a tribute to the students who designed, built and operated it.

“EQUiSat is just an assembly of parts — the success and the learning were accomplished by the ingenuity, hard work and dedication of a diverse team of Brown students past and present,” Fleeter said. “That’s what I will remember about it — the great satisfaction of having been a part of their team.”

To keep its systems running, the satellite’s custom-made solar array powered a set of LiFePO batteries, which were part of its mission objective. This type of battery had never flown in space before, so NASA was interested to see how they’d perform in an environment that goes from -250 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade to 250 degrees in the sun. Those batteries, along with the rest of the EQUiSat’s systems, performed about as well as anyone could have expected.

See also this earlier report on the project: After 7 years of work, Brown’s student satellite is cleared for NASA launch | Brown University – Mar.15.2018

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

ANS-003 AMSAT News Service Weekly Bulletins for Jan. 3 – ANS –

  • 2021 Promises To Be A “Big” Year in Space
  • Changes to AMSAT News Service Bulletins Distribution
  • New AMSAT Contact Information
  • FO-29 operation schedule for Jan. – Feb. 2021
  • AMSAT Awards Update
  • VUCC Awards-Endorsements for January 1, 2021
  • New Mail System Archives Changes
  • Changes to AMSAT-NA TLE Distribution for December 31, 2020
  • ARISS News
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • Satellite Shorts From All Over

ANS-0103 AMSAT News Service Weekly Bulletins for Jan. 10, 2021 – ANS:

  • Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne Launch Demo 2 is go for launch
  • Cargo Dragon to Return to Earth from ISS
  • Portable QO-100 station activated on Antarctic cruise
  • AMSAT-SM releases a satellite memory set for the ICOM IC-705
  • AMSAT Ambassador Activities
  • AMSAT – Changes in Orbital Elements
  • ARISS News
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • Satellite Shorts From All Over

** General CubeSat/SmallSat info:

** CubeSat: Little Satellite, Big Deal : Short Wave – NPR

** History of the Wolverine CubeSat Team – Simmons COSPAR-K 2021 (Sydney, Australia)

** Understanding Radio Communications – Lecture 11: Receiving a satellite – Tutorial for teacher

This is the last in a series of 6 videos designed to accompany the “Understanding Radio Communications – using SDRs” teaching materials. It supports the lecture/lab work presented in lecture 11 of the 11 one hour sessions (Receiving a satellite) You can find out more and register to download the materials free of charge at this link:

** Getting Started with Amateur Radio Satellites – Tom Schuessler N5HYP

** Q&A – Getting Started with Amateur Radio Satellites – Tom Schuessler N5HYP

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