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  • richardmitnick 3:09 pm on May 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Cubesats   

    From COSMOS: “CubeSats: exploring other planets on a budget” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc


    26 May 2017
    Cathal O’Connell

    Anthony Calvert
    Hitchhiking could be the new way to see the solar system. No towel required.
    Name: Mars Cube One (MarCO)
    Destination: Martian orbit
    Mission cost:
    (MarCO) US$13 million,
    (Insight) US$425 million
    Launch Date: 20 May 2018
    Mars Arrival: 26 November 2018
    Dimensions (while stowed): 36.6 x 24.3 x 4.6 x 11.8 cm.
    Mass: 14 kg

    Any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.” – Douglas Adams

    Exploring the solar system is absurdly expensive. Even a single mission, such as NASA’s US$675 million InSight probe to Mars, scheduled to launch in May 2018, would eclipse the total science budget of most nations.

    NASA Mars Insight Lander

    But with tiny, hitchhiking satellites called CubeSats, there may finally be a way to explore other planets on a shoestring.

    Tagging along on that InSight mission will be two CubeSats – small, boxy satellites the size of a carry-on suitcase. Built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, these Mars Cube One (or MarCO) probes will be the first CubeSats to voyage to another planet. If they pull off their US$13 million mission – peanuts compared with any previous interplanetary mission – MarCO could lead to a shift in how we explore the solar system, even opening the doors to smaller nations to stake a claim. Space travel finally has an economy-class fare.

    CubeSats were originally designed as a training tool, so university students could design and build satellites in the timeline of a semester. The basic idea was to cram the instrumentation into a standard template: a cube with 10 cm sides.

    Almost 20 years on, more than 500 cubesats have been launched successfully into orbit, with another 600 launches planned for 2017 alone. CubeSats have turned into the great leveller of modern space exploration, achievable within the budget of schools, universities, or even crowdfunding campaigns.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:31 am on May 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    From EPFL: “Software developed at EPFL used to control a flotilla of satellites” 

    EPFL bloc

    École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL

    © 2017 EPFL

    19.05.17 – This past week, 28 CubeSats were released from the International Space Station (ISS). Eight of them are running EPFL software that was originally developed for SwissCube.

    Code name: QB50. This refers to the European research program begun in early 2016 with the aim of launching 50 miniature satellites – CubeSats – into orbit around the Earth. Their mission: to observe and measure the thermosphere, which is the layer of the atmosphere from 100 to 600 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. Research institutes and universities from 23 countries are involved in the project, and their attention was focused on the skies this past week: on Monday, the ISS began launching the CubeSats that they developed.

    (Ejection d’un CubeSat. © NASA)

    Seven years ago, EPFL sent the SwissCube into space. That was the first Swiss satellite, and it was designed and built by students. EPFL may not have a satellite on board this time around, but it is involved in the control systems of eight of the 28 satellites that entered orbit this past week. “We developed satellite control software for SwissCube – called simply Satellite Control System (SCS) – that is extremely lean and sturdy,” says Muriel Richard, from EPFL’s Space Engineering Center (eSpace). “Using a secure and automated process, SCS encodes the instructions that need to be sent to the satellite, transmits them when the satellite is flying over a base station and receives information back from the satellite.”

    Eight organizations from seven different countries – Turkey, Taiwan, South Korea, Israel, Spain, Ukraine and China – chose EPFL’s open-source software, which they adapted to their own needs. “This is extremely positive and a real boost for our work,” says Richard, who noted that SCS is also able to control larger satellites.

    EPFL’s software has been chosen for other ongoing projects as well. It will run CleanSpace One, a satellite that is being designed to de-orbit SwissCube so that it does not end up as more space debris. It will also control the first two prototypes of a planned constellation of 60 nanosatellites; the prototype launch, scheduled for next year, is being run by EPFL startup ELSE. These projects are helping to put EPFL at the center of a growing ecosystem of specialized space-related expertise.

    See the full article here .

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    EPFL campus

    EPFL is Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university with students, professors and staff from over 120 nations. A dynamic environment, open to Switzerland and the world, EPFL is centered on its three missions: teaching, research and technology transfer. EPFL works together with an extensive network of partners including other universities and institutes of technology, developing and emerging countries, secondary schools and colleges, industry and economy, political circles and the general public, to bring about real impact for society.

  • richardmitnick 1:33 pm on May 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Blobs and Bubbles, Cubesats, Dellingr, GRIDS-Gridded Retarding Ion Drift Sensor, INMS-Goddard-developed Ion-Neutral Mass Spectrometer, , PetitSat-Plasma Enhancements in The Ionosphere-Thermosphere Satellite   

    From Goddard: “NASA Team Pursues Blobs and Bubbles with New PetitSat Mission” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    May 9, 2017
    Lori Keesey
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    Figuring out how plasma bubbles and blobs affect one another and ultimately the transmission of communications, GPS, and radar signals in Earth’s ionosphere will be the job of a recently selected CubeSat mission.

    A team of NASA scientists and engineers, led by Jeffrey Klenzing and Sarah Jones, scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, recently won NASA funding to build the Plasma Enhancements in The Ionosphere-Thermosphere Satellite. The mission, also known as petitSat, is a precursor to a possible Explorer-class mission and leverages several R&D-supported technologies, including the satellite bus itself.

    The Goddard-led petitSat team is basing its mission on a 6U CubeSat — Dellingr. Goddard engineers developed this small satellite to show that CubeSats could be both reliable and cost effective also while gathering compelling scientific data. The black-colored device at the top of the Dellingr 3-D model depicts the Ion-Neutral Mass Spectrometer that also is flying on petitSat.
    Credits: NASA/W. Hrybyk

    When it launches from the International Space Station in 2021, the mission will study density irregularities in the mid and low-latitude ionosphere, which occupies a tiny fraction of the atmosphere and is basically an ionized layer coexisting with the thermosphere roughly 50 to 250 miles above Earth’s surface.

    The ionosphere is a plasma, an ionized gas consisting of positive ions and free electrons. It is important to long-distance radio communication because it reflects radio waves back to Earth. Consequently, any perturbations in the density of the plasma interfere with GPS and radar signals.

    These perturbations or irregularities come in the form of ionospheric depletions or bubbles, structures that contain fewer electrons, and enhancements or blobs that contain a greater number of electrons. “All these irregularities can distort the transmission of radio waves,” said Klenzing, the mission principal investigator.

    Blobs and Bubbles: A Different Story

    Previous studies of the blobs indicate that they can be the direct result of bubbles forming near the geomagnetic equator, Klenzing said. Other observations, however, tell a different story. The blobs can be observed in regions where bubbles do not extend and can form when bubbles do not.

    They suggest that multiple mechanisms are at play, including fast-traveling waves coming from the thermosphere, a warm neutral atmospheric layer where most of the ionosphere resides. In fact, these wave-like thermospheric structures create waves in the ionosphere through ion-neutral drag — a phenomenon called Medium-Scale Traveling Ionospheric Disturbances, or MSTIDs. The resulting MSTIDs create electric fields that can transport energy from the summer hemisphere to the winter hemisphere. It is thought that the observed plasma blobs are the consequence of these electric fields.

    “Our mission will investigate the link between these two phenomena — enhanced plasma density measurements, or blobs, and the wave action in the thermosphere,” Klenzing said.

    To find out, the team will fly two instruments: a version of the Goddard-developed Ion-Neutral Mass Spectrometer, or INMS — the world’s smallest mass spectrometer that has flown on ExoCube, a CubeSat mission sponsored by the National Science Foundation — and the Gridded Retarding Ion Drift Sensor, or GRIDS, provided by Utah State University and Virginia Tech.

    The mass spectrometer will measure the densities of a variety of particles in the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere, observing how these densities change in response to daily and seasonal cycles. The university-provided instrument, meanwhile, will measure the distribution, motion, and velocity of ions.

    PetitSat is flying a version of the Goddard-developed Ion-Neutral Mass Spectrometer (left) and the university-provided Gridded Retarding Ion Drift Sensor. Credits: NASA

    Dellingr-Based Mission

    The team will integrate its instruments on a Dellingr-based spacecraft. A team of Goddard engineers specifically created this 6U CubeSat to demonstrate that that these tiny craft could be reliable and cost-effective also while delivering compelling science. Dellingr, which also carries the INMS, magnetometers, and other technologies, is expected to launch in August.

    Unlike Dellingr whose solar panels are mounted on the side of the spacecraft, petitSat will fly deployable solar arrays — an enhancement that will allow mission operators to more easily point the arrays to the sun to recharge batteries. It also will carry a more advanced star tracker, said Jones, the INMS principal investigator.

    When petitSat is deployed 249 miles above Earth — consistent with the International Space Station’s orbit — the resulting data will be compared with that gathered by other ground- and space-based assets, Klenzing said. “Through comparative analysis, we will bring closure to our key science question: what is the link between plasma enhancements and MSTIDs. We’ve studied bits and pieces, but we’ve never had a full complement of instruments.”

    For more technology news, go to https://gsfctechnology.gsfc.nasa.gov/newsletter/Current.pdf

    See the full article here.

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA/Goddard Campus

  • richardmitnick 1:19 pm on April 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Cubesats, Microsatellite ‘Challenger’,   

    From U Colorado: “We Have Liftoff! Student-Built Satellite Launches from Cape Canaveral” 

    U Colorado

    University of Colorado Boulder

    April 18, 2017
    No writer credit

    Members of the Challenger team with the microsatellite before it left CU Boulder.

    A University of Colorado Boulder student-built microsatellite is on its way to the International Space Station.

    The satellite, named ‘Challenger’, had a successful lift off Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at 9:11 AM MDT from Cape Canaveral. It is part of the European Union sponsored QB50 project to deploy a network of miniaturized satellites to study part of Earth’s atmosphere.


    The effort is being led by the von Karman Institute, located in Belgium, with this mission being the first of two launches that will take the network of satellites into orbit. The first rocket, built by Colorado-based United Launch Alliance, carrying 28 CubeSats, will soon dock with the International Space Station. CubeSats are fully functional miniaturized satellites that are about the size of a loaf of bread. They generally weigh less than three pounds each and use off-the-shelf electronic components. They are designed to facilitate access to space research at lower cost.

    This QB50 project represents a unique collaboration between universities and research institutes from 23 countries around the world. All of the satellites were designed and built by students. At CU Boulder, aerospace professor Scott Palo says 53 students took part in the construction of Challenger.

    “We are developing young engineers who have already been through the lifecycle of a satellite from concept to operation, but this is more than just a training program. We’re combining learning with valuable scientific measurements,” Palo says.

    The QB50 mission is the first attempt to use a constellation of CubeSats to provide multi-point measurements of the mid-lower thermosphere, an area of the atmosphere located between 125-250 miles in altitude (200-400 km). What we know about this area of the thermosphere is limited because it is difficult and risky to reach. It is too high in altitude to be measured by ground radar or small rockets and is too low for most satellites.

    “Data gathered from this mission will help us gain a better understanding of the relationship between Earth’s atmosphere and the Sun’s radiation,” says Andrew Dahir, the lead CU Boulder PhD student on the project.

    After deployment, the CubeSats will orbit around the Earth several times a day, taking a large number of measurements of the gaseous molecules and electrical properties of the thermosphere.

    “This project is the very first international real-time coordinated study of the thermosphere phenomena. The data generated by the constellation will be unique in many ways and they will be used for many years by scientists around the world”, says Dr. Davide Masutti, QB50 project manager at the von Karman Institute.

    In addition to its scientific mission, Challenger also includes multiple personal touches. The satellite sports an engraved CU Boulder buffalo on an interior component, and contains a memorial to its namesake, the US Space Shuttle Challenger. CU Boulder aerospace graduate Ellison Onizuka (BS 69’, MS 69’) served as a mission specialist on the flight.

    See the full article here.

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    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

  • richardmitnick 5:53 am on April 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Cubesats,   

    From ESA: “CubeSats: from educational tools to autonomous space drones” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    31 March 2017
    Roger Walker, Technology CubeSat manager

    Un-named ESA cubesats

    e-st@r team clean their CubeSat before integration

    The technology-testing GomX-3 under construction. A ‘three-unit’ CubeSat, it measures 10x10x30 cm in size with an approximate mass of 3 kg, with payloads to detect signals from aircraft and telecom satellites. (Credit: davidgerhardt.com)

    CubeSats started as a tool for education. Profs Jordi Puig-Suari of California Polytechnic State University and Bob Twiggs of Stanford University wanted students to gain hands-on experience in designing, making and flying nanosatellites, but they needed to do it cheaply.

    That led them to the PC/104 computer standard, with rugged, stackable electronics boards with commercial components to fit within a 10x10x10 cm box (or unit). A container was developed as a standard interface for launch vehicles, with a spring-loaded ‘jack in a box’ deployment system to push out three CubeSats at a time into space. That in turn inspired the idea of a single 3-unit CubeSat, packing in added technology and a payload. The CubeSat standard was born. Within their budgets for the first time, many university engineering facilities worldwide then embraced the concept and gave the chance for students to build something to actually fly in space – how cool is that?

    ESA’s involvement with CubeSats started in 2006, when I was working at the Education Office. There was an opportunity to embark educational CubeSats on the maiden flight of our new Vega launcher. The agreement was signed with the Vega project in 2007, and that led in turn to the first European CubeSat symposium in early 2008. Vega launched seven separate 1-unit CubeSats in the end. Different European universities designed, manufactured and tested the CubeSats and we supported their engineering work, verified their suitability for flight and procured their deployment systems.

    The 2012 launch saw these CubeSats meet with mixed operational success – only two worked for a long period, three for a few weeks and contact was lost with a couple. But they were all successes in educational terms, of course. When universities make a CubeSat for the first time then there’s maybe a 50/50 chance of failure, but for second and third times it’s a lot lower. And the student teams responsible for those pioneer CubeSats formed spin-off companies after graduation.

    These companies have grown exponentially since then, employing dozens of people, manufacturing multiple CubeSats annually as the market has expanded greatly with not only universities, but also government agencies and commercial service start-ups now utilising them.

    ESA’s involvement with educational CubeSats continues to this day and this remains very important, but it was clear back then that CubeSats held wider potential – quick and cheap to develop and launch, they offer an ideal platform for demonstrating promising new technologies. So that’s my current role within TEC, bringing together technology companies and research institutes with CubeSat companies.

    We group payloads together synergistically so each technology CubeSat is more than the sum of its parts. For instance, GomX-3 – our first mission to fly – combined a receiver of ADS-B aircraft signals with a system to map signal quality from telecom satellites, 3-axis pointing control plus an X-band transmitter for rapid data download. Another CubeSat, QARMAN, is focused on reentry technologies and is scheduled to launch later this year. We have another four technology CubeSats in development currently.

    If our really big satellites resemble mainframe computers, and standard satellites are PCs, then CubeSats equal smartphones – highly compact and portable, integrating miniaturised sensors with powerful but low-power computer processors and software radios. Here on Earth, aerial drones are exploiting the same technologies as CubeSats and pushing the boundaries of autonomous flight systems, so I like to think that CubeSats have the potential to become the autonomous drones of space. For instance, we’re looking at similar concepts for CubeSats such as autonomous navigation, close proximity operations, swarm formations as well as on-orbit inspection and assembly techniques, the latter to build up larger structures from basic building blocks.

    And as well as flying in new ways, we want to fly CubeSats to new places –we’ve been looking into deep space missions, and are planning later this year to invite concepts for lunar CubeSats in support of exploration objectives.

    I’m continually impressed by the sheer creativity involved in miniaturising systems to put them in these small boxes – instruments, propulsion systems, radios… European industry and research labs are pushing ahead rapidly with developing new products and we are helping them to get those products into orbit as quickly as possible, so they can maintain a competitive edge.

    Each technology CubeSat project is managed to a standard engineering and product/quality assurance approach with a tailored version of the ECSS standards for CubeSats, focussed on managing risks and maximising probability of mission success within the limited financial budgets. Along with access to the Agency’s technical expertise and facilities, this allows us to offer significant added value to Member States funding these small innovative missions within our Technology Programme.

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 3:12 pm on March 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Cubesats, From NASA: "NASA Embraces Small Satellites" Video and text,   

    From NASA: “NASA Embraces Small Satellites” Video and text 

    NASA image

    Access mp4 video here .

    The earliest satellites of the Space Age were small. Sputnik, for instance, weighed just 184.3 lbs. America’s first satellite, Explorer 1, was even smaller at only about 30 lbs.

    Over time, satellites grew to accommodate more sensors with greater capabilities, but thanks to miniaturization and new technology capabilities, small is back in vogue.

    NASA is one of many government agencies, universities, and commercial organizations embracing small satellite designs, from tiny CubeSats to micro-satellites. A basic CubeSat has 4 inch sides and weighs just a few pounds!

    A CubeSat can be put into place a number of different ways. It can be a hitchhiker, flying to space onboard a rocket whose main purpose is to launch a full-sized satellite. Or it can be put into orbit from the International Space Station. Astronauts recently used this technique when they deployed the Miniature X-Ray Solar Spectrometer (MinXSS), a CubeSat that studies solar flares.

    On Feb. 2, 2016, NASA announced which CubeSats will fly on the inaugural flight of the agency’s Space Launch System in late 2018. CubeSats are small satellites, about the size of a cereal box, which provide an inexpensive way to access space. This file photo shows a set of NanoRacks CubeSats in space after their deployment in 2014.
    Credits: NASA

    In 2018, NASA plans to launch the CubeSat to study Solar Particles (CuSP). It will hitch a ride out of Earth orbit during an uncrewed test flight of NASA’s Space Launch System.

    CuSP could serve as a small “space weather buoy.”

    Eric Christian, CuSP’s lead scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland says, “Right now, with our current fleet of large satellites, it’s like we’re trying to understand weather for the entire Pacific Ocean with just a handful of weather stations. We need to collect data from more locations.”

    For certain areas of science, having a larger number of less expensive missions will provide a powerful opportunity to really understand a given environment. Christian says, “If you had, say, 20 CubeSats in different orbits, you could really start to understand the space environment in three dimensions.”

    NASA scientists are taking this approach of using a constellation of sensors to probe the details of a large area with a number of recently launched and upcoming missions.

    The Cyclone Global Navigation Satallite System, or CYGNSS, launched in December 2016. CYGNSS uses eight micro-satellites to measure ocean surface winds in and near the eyes of tropical cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes to learn about their rapid intensification. These micro-satellites each weigh about 65 lbs, larger than a CubeSat but still very small compared to traditional satellite designs.

    Additionally, the first four selections from the In-Space Validation of Earth Science Technologies (InVEST) program recently began launching. The goal of the InVEST program is to validate new technologies in space prior to use in a science mission.

    RAVAN, the first of the InVEST CubeSats, was launched in November 2016 to demonstrate a new way to measure radiation reflected by Earth. The next three InVEST missions to launch, HARP, IceCube, and MiRaTA, will demonstrate technologies that may pave the way for future satellites to measure clouds and aerosols suspended in Earth’s atmosphere, probe the role of icy clouds in climate change, and collect atmospheric temperature, water vapor, and cloud ice data through remote sensing, respectively.

    NASA’s Science Mission Directorate is looking to develop scientific CubeSats that cut across all NASA Science through the SMD CubeSat Initiative Program.

    Andrea Martin, communications specialist for NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office, believes this is just the beginning. She says, “CubeSats could be flown in formation, known as constellations, with quick revisit times to better capture the dynamic processes of Earth. Multiple CubeSats can also take complementary measurements unachievable by a single larger mission.” She envisions big things ahead for these little satellites.

    For more news about CubeSats and other cutting edge technologies both big and small, stay tuned to science.nasa.gov.

    See the full article here .

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    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

  • richardmitnick 2:38 pm on March 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Cubesats, NANOSwarm,   

    From Universe Today: “Are You Ready For The NanoSWARM?” 


    Universe Today

    CubeSats NODes 1 & 2 and STMSat-1 are deployed from the International Space Station during Expedition 47. Image: NASA

    14 Mar , 2017
    Evan Gough

    We’re accustomed to the ‘large craft’ approach to exploring our Solar System. Probes like the Voyagers, the Mariners, and the Pioneers have written their place in the history of space exploration. Missions like Cassini and Juno are carrying on that work. But advances in technology mean that Nanosats and Cubesats might write the next chapter in the exploration of our Solar System.

    Nanosats and Cubesats are different than the probes of the past. They’re much smaller and cheaper, and they offer some flexibility in our approach to exploring the Solar System. A Nanosat is defined as a satellite with a mass between 1 and 10 kg. A CubeSat is made up of multiple cubes of roughly 10cm³ (10cm x 10cm x 11.35cm). Together, they hold the promise of rapidly expanding our understanding of the Solar System in a much more flexible way.

    A cubesat structure, made by ClydeSpace, 1U in size. Credit: Wikipedia Commons/Svobodat

    NASA has been working on smaller satellites for a few years, and the work is starting to bear some serious fruit. A group of scientists at JPL predicts that by 2020 there will be 10 deep space CubeSats exploring our Solar System, and by 2030 there will be 100 of them. NASA, as usual, is developing NanoSat and CubeSat technologies, but so are private companies like Scotland’s Clyde Space.

    INSPIRE and MarCO

    NASA has built 2 Interplanetary NanoSpacecraft Pathfinder In Relevant Environment (INSPIRE) CubeSats to be launched in 2017. They will demonstrate what NASA calls the “revolutionary capability of deep space CubeSats.” They’ll be placed in earth-escape orbit to show that they can withstand the rigors of space, and can operate, navigate, and communicate effectively.

    Following in INSPIRE’s footsteps will be the Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats. MarCO will demonstrate one of the most attractive aspects of CubeSats and NanoSats: their ability to hitch a ride with larger missions and to augment the capabilities of those missions.

    In 2018, NASA plans to send a stationary lander to Mars, called Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight). The MarCO CubeSats will be along for the ride, and will act as communications relays, though they aren’t needed for mission success. They will be the first CubeSats to be sent into deep space.

    So what are some specific targets for this new class of small probes? The applications for NanoSats and CubeSats are abundant.

    Other NanoSat and CubeSat Missions

    NASA’s Europa Clipper Mission, planned for the 2020’s, will likely have CubeSats along for the ride as it scrutinizes Europa for conditions favorable for life. NASA has contracted 10 academic institutes to study CubeSats that would allow the mission to get closer to Europa’s frozen surface.

    The ESA’s AIM asteroid probe will launch in 2020 to study a binary asteroid system called the Didymos system. AIM will consist of the main spacecraft, a small lander, and at least two CubeSats. The CubeSats will act as part of a deep space communications network.

    ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission is joined by two triple-unit CubeSats to observe the impact of the NASA-led Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) probe with the secondary Didymos asteroid, planned for late 2022. Image: ESA

    The challenging environment of Venus is also another world where CubeSats and NanoSats can play a prominent role. Many missions make use of a gravity assist from Venus as they head to their main objective. The small size of NanoSats means that one or more of them could be released at Venus. The thick atmosphere at Venus gives us a chance to demonstrate aerocapture and to place NanoSats in orbit around our neighbor planet. These NanoSats could take study the Venusian atmosphere and send the results back to Earth.


    But the proposed NanoSWARM might be the most effective demonstration of the power of NanoSats yet. The NanoSWARM mission would have a fleet of small satellites sent to the Moon with a specific set of objectives. Unlike other missions, where NanoSats and CubeSats would be part of a mission centered around larger payloads, NanoSWARM would be only small satellites.

    NanoSWARM is a forward thinking mission that is so far only a concept. It would be a fleet of CubeSats orbiting the Moon and addressing questions around planetary magnetism, surface water on airless bodies, space weathering, and the physics of small-scale magnetospheres. NanoSWARM would target features on the Moon called “swirls“, which are high-albedo features correlated with strong magnetic fields and low surficial water. NanoSWARM CubeSats will make the first near-surface measurements of solar wind flux and magnetic fields at swirls.

    This is an image of the Reiner Gamma lunar swirl from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
    Credits: NASA LRO WAC science team

    NanoSWARM would have a mission architecture referred to as “mother with many children.” The mother ship would release two sets of CubeSats. One set would be released with impact trajectories and would gather data on magnetism and proton fluxes right up until impact. A second set would orbit the Moon to measure neutron fluxes. NanoSWARM’s results would tell us a lot about the geophysics, volatile distribution, and plasma physics of other bodies, including terrestrial planets and asteroids.

    Space enthusiasts know that the Voyager probes had less computing power than our mobile phones. It’s common knowledge that our electronics are getting smaller and smaller. We’re also getting better at all the other technologies necessary for CubeSats and NanoSats, like batteries, solar arrays, and electrospray thrusters. As this trend continues, expect nanosatellites and cubesats to play a larger and more prominent role in space exploration.

    And get ready for the NanoSTORM.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 2:44 pm on January 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Algeria, AlSat Nano, , , Cubesats,   

    From UK Space: “First colour image for joint UK and Algerian CubeSat” 

    UK Space Agency

    UK Space Agency

    9 January 2017

    AlSat Nano, a UK-Algeria CubeSat mission, has captured its first full colour image following its launch in September 2016.


    Image taken from space of the Arkhangelsk Oblast region, on the North West coast of Russia. Credit: Alsat Nano mission, Open University, December 2016.

    The image was taken by the Open University C3D2 instrument’s wide field camera on 3rd December, 2016, over the Arkhangelsk Oblast region, on the North West coast of Russia. It was captured under twilight conditions at dawn, showing the coastline to the right, and a brief winter sunrise over the arctic region with a deep red-brown hue. Through the cloud cover there is evidence of hills and snow on mountains, and mist in the river valleys. The object in the foreground is the Oxford Space Systems Ltd AstroTubeTM Boom payload, also carried on board the spacecraft.

    This marks an important milestone for the mission as all core payloads have now been commissioned successfully, paving the way for further scientific and commercial exploitation.

    Dr Chris Castelli, UK Space Agency Director of Programmes said:

    “Successfully delivering this joint UK-Algeria mission from payload selection to launch readiness in 18 months is a great achievement from all programme partners. As this latest image demonstrates, mission operations are going from strength to strength, validating cutting edge UK space technology and our open approach to working with international partners.”

    AlSat Nano is Algeria’s first CubeSat mission and shows the capability of UK technology in partnership with industry and academia. With a spacecraft the size of a shoebox yet featuring all the core subsystems of much larger satellites, the programme demonstrates how CubeSats can be assembled quickly and launched at a fraction of the cost. This will help Algeria strengthen its domestic space technology capability by giving their scientists and engineers first-hand experience of spacecraft operations.

    Alsat Nano image overlayed on Google Maps. Credit: Alsat Nano mission, Open University, December 2016. Map credit: Google Maps.

    Dr Abdewahab Chikouche, Director of Space Programmes at Algerian Space Agency, said:

    “The Alsat-1N project is a concrete example of the success of our cooperation with UKSA. This project, very enriching from the scientific and technological point of view, allowed ASAL engineers to progress in the integration and testing of nanosatellites and acquire autonomy in its operation. This project will enable Algerian researchers and academics to strengthen national capabilities in advanced space technology.”

    Approximately half of the spacecraft’s volume was made available as part of an open call to the UK CubeSat community as a free flight opportunity for self-funded payloads. AlSat Nano stuck to a tight development schedule, with less than 18 months between payload selection and flight readiness.

    Prof Guglielmo Aglietti, Director of Surrey Space Centre said:

    “AlSat Nano has been an exciting project for the Surrey Space Centre to be leading. Educational and research elements, and the technology knowledge transfer with the Algerian Space Agency were key parts of this project. Additionally, the development of this nanosatellite platform has been a great opportunity to work with UK payload providers, who are demonstrating some exciting new technologies.”

    AlSat Nano is a joint nanosatellite mission between the UK Space Agency and Algerian Space Agency (ASAL) as part of an on-going initiative to enhance collaboration. UK Space Agency has funded the design, build and verification of the spacecraft at Surrey Space Centre (SSC), University of Surrey, as a hands-on learning exercise for Algerian postgrad students to demonstrate the practical elements of low cost space technology. ASAL has provided the launch, and operations are being undertaken in Algeria by ASAL operators trained at SSC.

    The three selected payloads on AlSat Nano are:


    A highly customisable CubeSat camera suite offering three fields of view and innovative on-board software processing capabilities. The payload is also a remote experiment of the OpenSTEM Labs – a suite of remote experiments that supports distance learning students studying science and engineering. C3D2 will offer these students the chance to operate a real payload on an orbiting spacecraft. The payload development is led by the Open University Centre for Electronic Imaging with sensor hardware provided by e2v Ltd and electronics from XCAM Ltd.

    Thin Film Solar Cell

    A novel solar cell structure which is directly layered on cover glass just 1/10th of a millimetre thick. Effects from the space environment will be measured, with the aim of allowing the organisations involved a route to product development and commercial exploitation of this technology. This project is led by the Swansea University Centre for Solar Energy Research with contributions from the University of Surrey, Qioptiq Ltd and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.

    AstroTube Boom

    A retractable CubeSat-compatible boom which should be able to deploy up to 1.5 metres in length from a volume around the size of a business card holder. This technology would enable CubeSats to carry out a greater range of science experiments that require sensors to be held as far away from the spacecraft as possible to reduce interference, and could also form the basis of de-orbit systems for future missions. The payload also carries a magnetometer, one of the most compact of its class, to carry out measurements of the Earth’s magnetic field, and RadFET radiation monitors. The payload is led by Oxford Space Systems Ltd, collaborating with partners including the Science and Technology Facilities Councils RAL Space and Bartington Instruments Ltd.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:19 am on August 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Cubesats,   

    From ESA: “How to dock CubeSats” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    17 August 2016
    No writer credit found

    Docking CubeSats The ability to autonomously rendezvous and dock CubeSats could enable in-orbit assembly of larger structures that simply would not be possible in any other way. The challenge is that CubeSats are faced with tight mass, propellant and power constraints. The control accuracy necessary for docking would be on the order of a single centimetre.EPFL/Jamani Caillet.

    The miniature satellites known as CubeSats already play a variety of roles in space. In future they could also serve as the building blocks of other, larger missions by being docked together in orbit. CubeSats are nanosatellites of standardised dimensions based on multiple 10-cm-sided cubes, which ESA is employing for both educational and technology-demonstration purposes. “The ability to autonomously rendezvous and dock CubeSats could enable in-orbit assembly of larger structures that simply would not be possible in any other way,” explains Roger Walker, overseeing ESA’s technology CubeSats.

    ”Think for instance of constructing a very large telescope mirror or radio antenna for astronomy out of separate CubeSat segments, getting around size limitations set by our rocket fairings.”

    Lining up for CubeSat docking. Advanced guidance, navigation and control would be required to autonomously rendezvous and dock CubeSats. The challenge is that CubeSats are faced with tight mass, propellant and power constraints. The control accuracy necessary for docking would be on the order of a single centimetre. EPFL/Jamani Caillet

    So as a first step, ESA is part-funding PhD research into autonomous CubeSat docking techniques. “We’re looking at the level of guidance, navigation and control performance that would be achievable with the miniaturised sensors and propulsion available to such small satellites, and what kind of docking accuracy might be possible,” said Finn Ankersen, an ESA expert in rendezvous and docking and co-supervisor of the research. Researcher Camille Pirat of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland is having his PhD work supported through ESA’s Networking and Partnering Initiative, intended to harness advanced academic research for space applications.

    “My interest in the topic came out of a previous R&D project with ESA, designing a CubeSat mission to test out active space debris removal technologies, such as those that will be needed for ESA’s proposed e.Deorbit mission, to capture and deorbit an entire large derelict satellite from orbit.

    “The idea would be to demonstrate the pre-capture approach and synchronising of attitude between the chaser spacecraft and the tumbling target at the CubeSat scale, to prepare for a full-scale mission. It was that work that gave rise to this very interesting question: how can we perform rendezvous and docking between CubeSats?

    “The challenge is that CubeSats obviously have tight mass, propellant and power constraints. We will need a positioning accuracy of something like 1 cm, previously achieved by ESA’s ATV supply spacecraft when docking with the International Space Station, but obviously the ATV was orders of magnitude bigger.

    ATV-5 docks. ESA’s ATV-5 cargo vessel at moment of docking on 12 August 2014. ESA/NASA

    “A CubeSat docking would be more like placing a needle into a 1-cm-diameter hole, employing a limited number of sensors and of course a strictly limited amount of propellant. A high level of onboard autonomy would also be desirable.”

    The two nanosatellites would begin by using GPS navigation for the control system to bring them into closer range, with inter-satellite links established at about 20 km from each other.

    “Closer in, we’d be relying on camera-based navigation, with LED beacons fitted to the CubeSats to help measure the relative range and attitude between chaser and target. What I’m currently looking at is how changes in lighting conditions might impact this solution – if sunglare would be a problem, for example.”

    AAUSAT5 deployment. Two ESA CubeSats, the student-built AAUSat-5 and the professional technology demonstrator GomX-3, were deployed together from the International Space Station on 5 October 2015, going on to separate to begin their missions. NASA

    Cold-gas thrusters are currently being baselined, although electric propulsion would offer a way of squeezing extra efficiency out of scarce onboard fuel for longer-range rendezvous operations – with knock-on effects for the size and capacity of solar arrays.

    “I’m doing the work in Switzerland, but with regular visits to ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands,” adds Camille Pirat. “This gives me the chance to confer with Roger and also veterans of ESA’s ATV spacecraft such as Finn – it was such a great programme, it’s very useful to be able to learn from their experience.”

    Three-unit CubeSat. Preparing a CubeSat. Cubesats are nanosatellites that follow the popular ‘CubeSat’ standard, which defines the outer dimensions of the satellite within multiple cubic units of 10x10x10 cm. They typically weigh between 1 and 10 kilograms. For instance, a 3-unit CubeSat has dimensions of 10x10x30 cm and weighs about 3-4 kg. ESA

    In parallel with the Proba minisatellite missions, ESA is now also utilising much smaller ‘CubeSat’ nanosatellites. These are employed for the In-Orbit Demonstration (IOD) of miniaturised technologies and for small payload-driven missions.

    What are CubeSats?

    These nanosatellites typically weigh between 1 and 10 kilograms and follow the popular ‘CubeSat’ standard, which defines the outer dimensions of the satellite within multiple cubic units of 10x10x10 cm. For instance, a 3-unit CubeSat has dimensions of 10x10x30 cm and weighs about 3-4 kg. This is typically the minimum size which can accommodate small technology payloads.

    Fixing the satellite body dimensions promotes a highly modular, highly integrated system where satellite subsystems are available as ’commercial off the shelf’ products from a number of different suppliers and can be stacked together according to the needs of the mission. Furthermore, the standard dimensions also allows CubeSats to hitch a ride to orbit within a container, which simplifies the accommodation on the launcher and minimises flight safety issues, increasing the number of launch opportunities as well as keeping the launch cost low.

    Due to their high degree of modularity and extensive use of commercial off the shelf subsystems, CubeSat projects can be readied for flight on a much more rapid basis compared to traditional satellite schedules, typically within one to two years.

    SIMBA mission. Led by the Royal Meteorological Institute Belgium, SIMBA is a 3-unit CubeSat mission to measure the Total Solar Irradiance and Earth Radiation Budget climate variables with a miniaturised radiometer instrument, due to be launched in 2016 as part of the European Commission-funded multi-cubesat QB50 flight. ESA

    Why is ESA interested in cubesats?

    CubeSats have already proved their worth as educational tools. In addition, they have various promising applications in the ESA context:

    As a driver for drastic miniaturisation of systems, ‘systems-on-chips’, and totally new approach to packaging and integration, multi-functional structures, embedded propulsion
    As an affordable means of demonstrating such technologies, together with novel techniques such as de-orbiting devices or formation flying
    As an opportunity to carry out distributed multiple in-situ measurements, such as obtaining simultaneous multi-point observations of the space environment (which might include the thermosphere, ionosphere, magnetosphere or charged particle flux)
    As a means of deploying small payloads – for instance, very compact radio receivers or optical cameras where the potential deficit in performance may be largely compensated by the multitude of satellites involved.

    Technology in-orbit demonstartion of cubesats

    Since 2013, ESA has begun a number of CubeSat missions and technology development activities funded under the In-Orbit Demonstration part of the General Support Technology Programme (GSTP). The following IOD projects are underway:

    GomX-3 (led by Gomspace, Denmark): a 3-unit CubeSat mission to demonstrate aircraft ADS-B signal reception and geostationary telecommunication satellite spot beam signal quality using an L-band reconfigurable software defined radio payload. A miniaturised high data rate X-band transmitter developed by Syrlinks and funded by the French space agency CNES is being flown as a third party payload. The satellite was deployed from the International Space Station on 5 October 2015.

    Picasso CubeSat. The PICosatellite for Atmospheric and Space Science Observations (Picasso) CubeSat, designed to investigate the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere.

    Developed for ESA by the Belgian Institute of Space Aeronomy with VTT Finland and the UK’s Clyde Space, Picasso will measure the distribution of ozone in the stratosphere and profile the temperature of the mesosphere and the electron density in the ionosphere.

    Just 30x10x10 cm in size, the CubeSat will use a miniaturised multispectral imager for atmospheric ‘limb sounding’ with the Sun as the light source, and a multineedle ‘Langmuir probe’ sampling the electron density of the space around it.

    CubeSats are standardised pico- and nanosatellites formed in cubes of 10 cm per side, with a maximum mass of 1.5 kg per cube, intended to make access to space affordable for small companies, research institutes and universities. One-, two- or three-cube CubeSats are currently being flown.

    Picasso is one of a number of CubeSat missions being backed by the In-Orbit Demonstration element of ESA’s General Support Technology Programme. It will be launched in 2016 as part of QB50, a network of 50 CubeSats to probe largely unexplored layers of Earth’s atmosphere. BISA.

    SIMBA (led by the Royal Meteorological Institute Belgium): a 3-unit CubeSat mission to measure the Total Solar Irradiance and Earth Radiation Budget climate variables with a miniaturised radiometer instrument, due to be launched in 2016 as part of the European Commission-funded multi-cubesat QB50 flight
    QARMAN (led by the Von Karman Institute, Belgium): a 3-unit CubeSat mission to demonstrate reentry technologies, particularly novel heatshield materials, new passive aerodynamic drag and attitude stabilisation systems, and the transmission of telemetry data during reentry via data relay satellites in low-Earth orbit, due to be launched in 2016 as part of the QB50 flight
    Picasso (led by Belgian Institute of Space Aeronomy with VTT Finland and Clyde Space, UK): a 3-unit CubeSat mission to measure Stratospheric Ozone distribution, Mesospheric Temperature profile and Electron density in the ionosphere using a miniaturised multi-spectral imager for limb sounding of solar disk, and a multi-Needle Langmuir Probe, due to be launched in 2016 on the QB50 flight.

    See the full article here .

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 2:04 pm on August 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Cubesats,   

    From Northwestern: “Northwestern Experiments Head to Space” 

    Northwestern U bloc
    Northwestern University

    Aug 15, 2016
    Amanda Morris

    Two Northwestern Engineering experiments will soon take up residence inside of a galactic laboratory.

    NASA’s Physical Science Research Program is funding 16 flight proposals for research to be conducted aboard the International Space Station as a part of its MaterialsLab program. David Dunand and Peter Voorhees, both professors of materials science and engineering in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, are among those funded.

    “This is exciting news for Northwestern Engineering,” said Dunand, James N. and Margie M. Krebs Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. “Only sixteen projects were selected nationwide from a very large pool, and we received two of them.”

    The NASA program funds projects that investigate physical phenomena in the absence of gravity. These projects both contribute to the basic understanding underlying space exploration technologies and lead to new, improved products for Earth.

    Dunand and Voorhees co-advise a project that creates foams made of titanium oxide and other ceramics through a process called freeze casting. When titanium oxide nanoparticles are suspended in water and frozen, the ice crystals push the nanoparticles into regions where they are concentrated. The ice crystals are then removed by sublimation, leaving behind a highly porous nanoparticle scaffold, which can be further consolidated by heat treatment.

    The freeze casting process benefits from zero gravity as the resulting structures are more regular than those created in the laboratory. Led by undergraduate Kristen Scotti, the Northwestern team has already performed this experiment on parabolic flights aboard NASA’s “Weightless Wonder” aircraft and will soon conduct it in a CubeSat, designed and built at Northwestern and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which will be launched into low-Earth orbit next year.

    Voorhees’ funded experiment will examine fragmentation that occurs during the solidification of a metal. Fragments are one of the major defects in metal castings and, for example, can greatly reduce mechanical properties of turbine blades used in jet turbines and wind turbines. Performing the experiments in reduced gravity prevents fragments from settling, making it possible to measure the location and rate at which these fragments form.

    “This will help us understand the fragmentation process and build models to predict when these fragments may form during solidification on Earth,” said Voorhees, Frank C. Engelhart Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. “These models can then be used to prevent fragmentation during solidification of turbine blades and other castings on Earth.”

    See the full article here .

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    Northwestern South Campus
    South Campus

    On May 31, 1850, nine men gathered to begin planning a university that would serve the Northwest Territory.

    Given that they had little money, no land and limited higher education experience, their vision was ambitious. But through a combination of creative financing, shrewd politicking, religious inspiration and an abundance of hard work, the founders of Northwestern University were able to make that dream a reality.

    In 1853, the founders purchased a 379-acre tract of land on the shore of Lake Michigan 12 miles north of Chicago. They established a campus and developed the land near it, naming the surrounding town Evanston in honor of one of the University’s founders, John Evans. After completing its first building in 1855, Northwestern began classes that fall with two faculty members and 10 students.
    Twenty-one presidents have presided over Northwestern in the years since. The University has grown to include 12 schools and colleges, with additional campuses in Chicago and Doha, Qatar.

    Northwestern is recognized nationally and internationally for its educational programs.

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