Category Archives: Education

Student and amateur CubeSat news roundup – Apr.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):

** A review of the Virginia Cubesat Constellation program in which a consortium of universities in the state built three cubesats:  Virginia Cubesat Constellation, Mike McPherson, KQ9P

A report about the launch of the cubesats to the ISS: UVA-Built Nano-Spacecraft is Launched Into Space | UVA Today

The three spacecraft were deployed into orbit from the ISS on July 3, 2019.

Virginia CubeSat ConstellationDeployment
Three Virginia CubeSat Constellation spacecraft deployed from the ISS on July 9,2019.
Three student members of the Virginia CubeSat Consortium show off the three program’s 3 CubeSats

Unfortunately,  communications were only established with one of the three spacecraft. In the above video, McPherson discusses the communications problems.

** Staten Longo – I Am NASA Virginia Space Grant – Participation in the Virginia CubeSat program led to a career in aerospace

Staten Longo, graduate of the University of Virginia, participated in the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars (VASTS) program as a high school student and then served as a program manager for the Virginia Cubesat Constellation project. This ‘I am NASA Space Grant’ video

** A CubeSat overview from Fiske Planetarium:

** AMSAT news on student and amateur CubeSat/smallsat projects: ANS-082 AMSAT News Service Special Bulletin

  • ARISS Responds to the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • New TQSL Version Provides Better LoTW Rover Support
  • AMSAT-EA Registering SanoSat-1 for AMSAT Nepal
  • ESA and LibreSpace Report: SDR’s for Small Satellites
  • Brazil Holds 430 and 1240 MHz Hearing
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • ARISS News
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • Satellite Shorts from All Over

General CubeSat/SmallSat info:

  • Exolaunch signs agreement with SpaceX for launch of small satellites on a Falcon 9 rideshare mission – Exolaunch – “Exolaunch, a German rideshare launch and deployment solutions provider, signed a Launch Services Agreement with SpaceX to launch small satellites on a Falcon 9 as part of SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program. Under the launch contract, Exolaunch accommodates multiple microsatellites and cubesats on the first Falcon 9 smallsat-dedicated rideshare mission to sun-synchronous orbit, targeted for launch in December 2020.

    Exolaunch will provide comprehensive rideshare mission management, deployment and integration services for its customers participating in this launch. Core customers who signed up for this launch through Exolaunch’s services will be announced in the coming weeks.”

  • In Response to Covid-19, Space Dynamics Lab Satellite Operators “Fly” Small Satellites from Home – Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL)/ Utah State Univ.  – “NASA’s Hyper-Angular Rainbow Polarimeter CubeSat and the Compact Infrared Radiometer in Space instrument small satellite, known as HARP and CIRiS respectively, are two science satellites that are now being commanded by SDL satellite operators outside of SDL facilities.”

** Cubesats, Hubble and Apollo 13 Trouble | Podcasts | Naked Scientists

Space Boffins Richard Hollingham and Sue Nelson celebrate Hubble’s 30th birthday with Shuttle astronaut Kathy Sullivan, whose mission deployed the space telescope, and hear from NASA engineer Jerry Woodfill about his warning alarm system for Apollo 13, celebrating its 50th lucky escape anniversary. The Space Boffins also meet Craig Clark, founder of AAC Clyde Space, and are shown around the cubesat pioneer’s HQ in Glasgow. All this with bonus space-themed added music….

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Orbit Design, Debris Impact, and Orbital Decay Prediction

Make your own LEctenna like that used on the ISS to demo power-beaming

The Naval Research Lab (NRL) sent a simple device to the International Space Station (ISS) to demonstrate the reception of a Wi-FI signal and converting it to enough power to light up a LED: NRL power-beaming demonstrated on International Space Station – Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)

International Space Station astronaut Jessica Meir completed the first U.S. Naval Research Laboratory power-beaming demonstration [see video below] in orbit February 12, 2020, using relatively simple components suitable for STEM activities.

Meir showed how NRL’s LEctenna™, a light-emitting rectifying antenna, converted a wireless network signal, similar to home networks, into electric power. While the current generated and light emitted was a small amount, the setup proved the concept in space.

“While this is a cool device on its own, our collaborators [at NRL] have begun investigating the wide range of possible applications for this technology in the real world,” Meir said. “We could find ways to wirelessly charge our mobile devices or remotely power drones. But one of the most interesting applications that they’re looking into is space-based solar panel arrays.”

Led by electronics engineer Paul Jaffe, researchers at NRL are investigating space solar and power beaming as a potential source of clean energy for a variety of military and civilian applications.

Space solar is simply using solar panels in space to harvest the sun’s energy, where collecting rays would be unaffected by clouds or other interference. Power beaming would send the collected energy down to Earth, where it would be converted back – just like LEctenna™ did – to usable energy.

“Some people might know about power beaming, such as for their toothbrush, or putting their phones on a charging pad,” Jaffe said. “What’s really exciting about it though, is that power can be sent wirelessly over much larger distances.”

“NASA astronaut Jessica Meir demonstrates how the LEctenna™, a light-emitting rectifying antenna constructed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, converts electromagnetic waves into electric current on the International Space Station. Similar technology could be used on the Earth’s surface to convert electromagnetic waves beamed from space-based solar arrays.” Credits NASA via NRL

The LEctenna™ demonstration proved the concept of power beaming in space, but was primarily a STEM project to inspire the next generation of innovators launched by the Department of Defense Space Test Program mission. Its simple, relatively low-cost design to convert electromagnetic waves to electric power can be replicated by students.

“LEctenna™ was a cool demonstration to raise awareness,” said Elias Wilcoski, an NRL research physicist. “We want to show students that this is technology that they can do themselves. If we can get them excited about it and space solar and power beaming, we can help bring more scientists and engineers into the fields to ensure the viability of our future.”

Here is a brief tutorial on making your own LEctenna:

Want to be able to see invisible electromagnetic waves? It’s easy to make your own LEctenna in just a few minutes to allow you to do just that! NRL’s Elias Wilcoski shows you how.

Parts used in this video:
An RF through-hole Schottky Diode (1N5711)
A through-hole LED
A plastic test tube

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Student and amateur CubeSat news roundup – Apr.8.2020

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

** Cubesat program at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, wins grants from NASA lunar exploration technology program: NASA Small Satellite Program Selects Cal Poly to Help Develop New Technology for Lunar Exploration Missions – Cal Poly News

Cal Poly will participate in a pair of two-year projects, both in collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The grants are valued at $200,000. The first, under the SmallSat Propulsion for Lunar Missions area, will team Cal Poly with UC Irvine for a project titled “Variable Specific Impulse Electrospray Thrusters for SmallSat Propulsion.”

The project will build on existing propulsion technology that uses electrostatic charges to propel liquid droplets to generate thrust. It will further develop and test a more-versatile system capable of operating in either a high-thrust mode when needed, or more efficient low-thrust mode to conserve fuel and save weight. This technology will add mission flexibility to electrospray propulsion systems while keeping within the size suited constraints of small spacecraft.

“Cal Poly will be providing a design for a CubeSat to test the thrusters, including an electrical subsystem that is capable of powering the thrusters,” Bellardo said. “UCI will be focusing more on the thruster side. Cal Poly will be focused on the spacecraft side.”

The second proposal, under NASA’s Advanced Electrical Power Subsystem and Thermal Management Technology area, pairs Cal Poly with Cal State Los Angeles for a project titled “An Additively Manufactured Deployable Radiator with Oscillating Heat Pipes to Enable High Power Lunar CubeSats.”

Compact CubeSats do not efficiently dissipate heat, yet lunar missions will demand even more electrical power, which produces heat as a byproduct that could damage core components of a small satellite. The equipment needed for longer duration missions far from Earth orbit includes more powerful radio transmitters while simultaneously dealing with the harsh cislunar thermal environment. The grant will fund the development of a deployable radiator with flexible oscillating heat pipes to provide more efficient heat transfer than traditional thermal straps.

“The more power a spacecraft needs, the more heat gets generated — both during power generation and consumption,” Bellardo said. “Radiators are part of the solution to keeping the spacecraft cooler. The technology is applicable to other small spacecraft as well.”

More about the Cal Poly projects and about lunar technology projects at other universities selected by NASA: NASA Selects Universities for Collaborative Development | NASA.

** AMSAT news on student and amateur CubeSat/smallsat projects: ANS-096 AMSAT News Service Special Bulletin

  • Ham Radio Book Featured in “Story Time From Space” on ISS
  • NO-104 / PSAT2 Status
  • VUCC Standings for April 2020
  • AMSAT Awards During Stay-at-Home Orders
  • Radio Amateurs of Canada Offers New Online Amateur Radio Course
  • AMSAT South Africa Reports Good Progress with AfriCUBE
  • ARISS News
  • Hamfests, Conventions, Maker Faires, and Other Events
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • Satellite Shorts from All Over

General CubeSat/SmallSat info:

** Exploring CubeSats!MIT Full STEAM Ahead

** SunRISE – NASA’s new mission to study giant space weather stormsYour Space Journey

NASA has just selected a new mission to study how the Sun generates and releases giant space weather storms into space. The new mission is called SunRISE, which stands for Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment. This mission will ultimately help protect astronauts traveling to the Moon and Mars by providing better information on how the Sun’s radiation affects the space environment they must travel through. The principal investigator of SunRISE, Dr. Justin Kasper, joins us to discuss this incredible mission. Justin is also a professor of Space Science & Engineering for the University of Michigan, where he designs sensors for spacecraft that explore extreme environments in space from the surface of the Sun to the outer edges of the solar system. SunRISE is an array of six CubeSats operating as one very large radio telescope. NASA has awarded $62.6 million to design, build and launch SunRISE by no earlier than July 1, 2023.

** 2019 IAF Global Technical Symposium – Small Satellite MissionsIAF Young Professionals

The Small Satellite Missions Global Technical Session (GTS) is collaboration between the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) Small Satellite Missions Symposium and the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Workforce Development/Young Professionals Programme Committee. This session is unique in that it allows for sharing of information on a global scale with presenters and audience both at the IAC venue and online at their home/work/university locations.

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Student and amateur CubeSat news roundup – Apr.2.2020

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

** Univ. of Michigan to  lead SunRISE multi-cubesat mission selected by NASA to study solar storms by detecting radio waves that precede coronal mass ejections: ‘Largest radio telescope in space’ to improve solar storm warnings – The Michigan Engineer News Center

The Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment, or SunRISE, consists of miniature satellites called cubesats that form a “virtual telescope” in space to detect and study the radio waves that precede major solar events. The waves can’t be detected on Earth’s surface due to interference from the region of Earth’s upper atmosphere known as the ionosphere. 

SunRISE, expected to launch in 2023, will offer a never-seen-before glimpse at what goes on in the area above the sun’s surface, the sola

The virtual telescope formed by the cubesats is illustrated in this video:

From the caption:

The Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE) is expected to launch in 2023. The project is led by University of Michigan climate and space sciences and engineering professor Justin Kasper. The team will deploy miniature satellites, called cubesats, that form a “virtual telescope” in space to detect and study the radio waves that precede major solar events. This is will greatly improve our solar storm warning system. SunRISE is a $62 million project, one of NASA’s Missions of Opportunity. $5 million will go to U-M for its science team and operating costs while the rest will be used for launch. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will manage the mission. Space Dynamics Laboratory, a non-profit research corporation, is the other major partner that will build the spacecraft.

See also:

** An update on the Univ. of Washington HuskySat-1 CubeSat in orbit: The first cube satellite made by [UW] students makes it to space –

HuskySat-1. Credits: Husky Satellite Lab at the Univ. Washington

Just last November, students worked to launch a loaf of bread into space; that is, a satellite the size of a loaf of bread.

The UW’s Husky Satellite Lab successfully launched the HuskySat-1 (HS-1), a cube satellite, into space Nov. 2, 2019. This initiative was started about four years ago by two graduate students: Paige Northway and Paul Sturmer.

Space development is not anything new to the UW, but HS-1 is the first cube satellite to be launched by a university from Washington state.

The Husky Satellite Lab’s mission was related to demonstrating a pulsed plasma thruster and a high-frequency communications system. Beyond that, Sturmer pointed out the huge success of being able to launch and have a working satellite.

According to Sturmer, the initial project was made up of over 50 students — mostly undergraduate students — who did the actual engineering, prototyping, and testing. Sturmer acted as the technical lead and product manager.

Members of the Husky Satellite Lab have now put their focus on other projects, such as the Miniature Microgravity Electroplating Experiment (MiniMEE) and the Platform for High Altitude Testing 2 (PHAT-2).

Several Roundups have mentioned HuskySat-1.

** AMSAT news on student and amateur CubeSat/smallsat projects: ANS-089 AMSAT News Service Special Bulletin

  • Sean Kutzko, KX9X, Appointed AMSAT Volunteer Coordinator
  • AMSAT Office Closed Until Further Notice
  • First Satellite Contact to be Noted in May QST
  • Amateur Radio Satellite Spreads Fight Coronavirus Message
  • Ham Talk Live! Interviews Frank Bauer, KA3HDO
  • ISS Crew Transition Affected by CoViD-19
  • Upcoming ARISS Contacts
  • Upcoming Satellite Operations
  • Satellite Shorts From All Over

General CubeSat/SmallSat info:

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“Xtronaut 2.0: The game of solar system exploration” – Xplore sponsors Kickstarter campaign

An announcement from Xtronaut:

Xplore Sponsors Xtronaut’s Kickstarter Campaign,
Donates Space Games to The Boeing Academy
for STEM Learning at The Museum of Flight

Xplore’s Xcraft™ Now Featured in
XTRONAUT 2.0: The Game of Solar System Exploration,
the award-winning space-themed board game

Xplore Xcraft™ playing card in Xtronaut 2.0 Game

Xtronaut 2.0, a fun, multi-player game for players ages eight and up, teaches the real-world challenges of solar system exploration and educates players on how to plan missions to deep space. Xplore’s high-performance spacecraft, the Xcraft™, is a new feature in Xtronaut 2.0, which mirrors real-life space missions. Players can plan exploration missions and send the Xcraft™ to the Moon, Mars, Venus, and asteroids, including Bennu, the target of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return mission. Spacecraft in the game can launch on SpaceX, ULA, and NASA-SLS rockets. Planetary scientist Dr. Dante Lauretta created Xtronaut with CEO Michael Lyon. Lauretta is a University of Arizona Professor and Principal Investigator for OSIRIS-REx. Lyon, while at Space Adventures, helped orchestrate the private astronaut flights for Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth to the International Space Station.

Xplore founder and Chief Operating Officer Lisa Rich said,

“Xtronaut 2.0 provides valuable education about space missions, builds strategic skills, and inspires players to pursue STEM careers. We are proud to have the Xcraft™ featured in Xtronaut 2.0 and are delighted that our sponsorship enables us to give 120 games to the youth organization of our choice. Xplore selected The Boeing Academy for STEM Learning at The Museum of Flight to receive our gift to support their mission to enhance educational opportunities for young people, particularly students of color, females, and those from low income families and communities to access and pursue STEM pathways.”

Reba Gilman, Vice President of Education for The Museum of Flight said,

“The Boeing Academy for STEM Learning at The Museum of Flight is pleased to accept Xplore’s generous gift of 120 Xtronaut 2.0 games, and we look forward to distributing them among our students. Xplore aligns well with our goal of promoting STEM opportunities. They are a creative company that thinks out-of-the box in terms of how their commercial missions to space will impact the lives of others. While scientists, universities, national space agencies, civilian space agencies, national security space agencies and others will fly with them, our students can also benefit from their missions to space.” She added, “We appreciate the leadership of Xplore’s female founder, Lisa Rich, and are thankful Xplore is giving us this positive stay-at-home activity that students will enjoy during these uncertain times.”

Dr. Dante Lauretta said:

“We are excited to include Xplore as a real-world example of next-generation missions to space. Our original game allows players to fly heritage spacecraft. With Xtronaut 2.0, we have the added feature of flying the Xcraft™ as a small payload with enhanced capability for missions to our solar system. Our players will love this feature as it adds another layer of real-world authenticity to the game.” He added, “We are pleased that our game will support The Museum of Flight. Xtronaut 2.0 is a constructive way for students enrolled in The Boeing Academy for STEM Learning’s programs to expand their knowledge of the aerospace industry and encourage them to be a part of it.”

Xtronaut 2.0 is currently available on Kickstarter. To obtain a copy or sponsor games to give to the youth organization of your choice, visit:

More cards in the Xtronaut game.

About Xplore: Xplore is a Seattle-based commercial deep space company offering Space as a ServiceTM. Xplore provides hosted payloads, communication relay services and exclusive datasets to its customers via a fleet of networked multi-mission spacecraft.

The mission of Xplore is to expand robotic exploration via commercial Xpeditions™ at and beyond Earth, to the Moon, Mars, Venus, Lagrange Points and near-Earth asteroids in the inner solar system. Xplore provides hosted payload services for scientific instruments and technology demonstrations for national space agencies, national security agencies, sovereign space agencies and universities. Visit:

About Xtronaut Enterprises, Inc.: Dante Lauretta and Michael Lyon founded Xtronaut Enterprises to develop innovative educational content associated with space exploration. Dr. Lauretta has spent over 16 years developing and leading the OSIRIS-REx mission. Xtronaut also produces the award-winning game Constellations: The Game of Stargazing and the Night Sky and Downlink: The Game of Planetary Discovery. Visit:



Here is an interview with Xtronaut CEO Michael Lyon by Jason Kanigan of the Cold Star Project:

Michael Lyon is an attorney, startup accelerator mentor and space tourism pioneer. I’ve interviewed him for the full format Cold Star Project show (link below), and today he’s back to share Xtronaut 2.0. It’s a fun and educational space board game he has co-created that has already achieved 2X its funding target on Kickstarter. Xtronaut 2.0 was co-created by Dante Lauretta of Osiris-REx fame. Bill Nye and the Planetary Society are also involved. I want you to have the chance to hear about it, and maybe pick up some of the cool swag that comes along with backing the idea. Check out the Kickstarter for Xtronaut 2.0 here:

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Xtronaut: The Game of Solar System Exploration