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  • richardmitnick 11:21 am on November 1, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Cubesats, , UW HuskySat-1 cubesat   

    From University of Washington: “Washington’s first student-built satellite preparing for launch” 

    U Washington

    From University of Washington

    October 31, 2019
    Hannah Hickey

    Team members Paige Northway, Anika Hidayat, John Correy and Eli Reed (back row, left to right) watch in June as Henry Martin of Nanoracks does a “fit test” to ensure that the satellite fits inside the silver box. The digital clock on the wall counts down the days, minutes and seconds until launch.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

    A University of Washington satellite smaller than a loaf of bread will, if all goes well, launch this weekend on its way to low-Earth orbit. It will be the first student-built satellite from Washington state to go into space.

    HuskySat-1 is one of seven student-built satellites from around the country scheduled to launch at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time Saturday, Nov. 2, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia coast.



    HuskySat-1 is a 3U CubeSat designed, built, and tested by the Husky Satellite Lab. HuskySat-1’s goal is to test two experimental payloads, a Pulsed Plasma Thruster, and a high-frequency K-band communication system, as well as hosting an Amateur Radio Linear Transponder.

    HuskySat-1 is being developed by an interdisciplinary team at the University of Washington and will be launched into Low Earth Orbit to become the first amateur satellite from Washington state. This CubeSat will demonstrate the capabilities of new technologies being developed at the University of Washington and expand the capabilities of CubeSats as a whole. In particular, a high-thrust pulsed plasma thruster (PPT), and high-gain communications system will form the core technology suite on board the satellite. The HuskySat-1 will also be flying a newly developed Amateur Radio Linear Transponder developed by AMSAT which will contribute to the worldwide communication networks built and operated by ham radio enthusiasts.

    HuskySat-1 sits under protection in the UW satellite lab in June, as it prepared to leave on its journey to Virginia and then to low-Earth orbit.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

    “It will be exciting once it’s in orbit,” said Paige Northway, a UW doctoral student in Earth and Space Sciences who has been involved since the project’s inception. “To me, the completion will be when we can get data from the satellite and send instructions back.”

    HuskySat-1’s last moments on Earth will be broadcast live on NASA TV. The satellites are hitching a ride on the Cygnus cargo spacecraft, whose first stop will be the International Space Station to resupply astronauts and swap out materials. In early 2020 the spacecraft will leave the station and fly up to an altitude of about 310 miles (500 kilometers), where a NASA engineer will eject the student-build satellites.

    An earlier model of the satellite, shown here in the lab, had solar panels on wings that unfold. The final model has solar panels attached on three sides to provide electrical power.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

    The UW creation is a type of CubeSat, a small satellite that measures exactly 10 centimeters (about 3 inches) along each side. HuskySat-1 is a “three-unit” system, meaning it’s the shape of a stack of three CubeSat-sized blocks. These miniature satellites were first created as a way for engineering students to test software with smaller, cheaper devices they could build from start to finish in a few years. But the devices are growing in popularity, with Planet and other companies now using nanosatellites for commercial ventures.

    NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative helps students and nonprofit groups launch these instrument systems into space. The Washington State University satellite, CougSat-1, is scheduled to launch in October 2020.

    The UW satellite weighs just under 7 pounds (3.14 kilograms) and took five years to design and build. Undergraduate and graduate students from aeronautics and astronautics, mechanical engineering, computer engineering, Earth and space sciences, physics and other departments spent hundreds of hours building the system in the Husky Satellite Lab.

    Its trip into low-Earth orbit is organized by Nanoracks, a Texas company that, like Spaceflight Industries of Seattle and other businesses, coordinates smaller groups to provide access to launch vehicles.

    After extensive testing and final checkouts this summer, Northway hand-delivered the satellite in September to the Nanoracks facility in Houston, where it was placed into the box that will carry it to space.

    “These students have gained firsthand experience on what is required to build and launch a satellite, and aerospace companies have already snapped up many of them,” said Robert Winglee, a professor of Earth and space sciences and the team’s faculty adviser as director of the UW Advanced Propulsion Lab. “Meanwhile, the UW is making its first steps to a continuing hardware presence in space. What more could you wish for?”

    Three antennas installed on the roof of Johnson Hall will allow students to get information like position and altitude and send instructions to the satellite as it passes overhead. A camera built in collaboration with students at Raisbeck Aviation High School in Tukwila, Washington, will send back grainy, black-and-white photos of Earth. Students will also be able to control the satellite’s camera and thruster remotely.

    “A lot of information is taught in classes, but only in a hands-on environment can you experience things like design, integration of subsystems, project management and documentation,” said team member Anika Hidayat, a senior in mechanical engineering.

    HuskySat-1 will orbit at an angle of 51.6 degrees, traveling between 51.6 degrees north and south, at an altitude of 310 miles (500 kilometers) and at more than 4 miles (7 kilometers) per second. Once the students locate their satellite they will be able to predict its travel path.

    White lines show the satellite’s projected travel path, orbiting at an angle of 51.6 degrees from the equator. The antennas at the UW will be able to communicate with HuskySat-1 when it flies inside the red circle.Paige Northway/University of Washington

    Some of the student-built parts will still be in test mode. A custom-built thruster uses sparks to vaporize small amounts of solid sulfur as a propellant. The thruster will fire about 100 times as the satellite passes over Seattle, only enough thrust to provide a slight nudge. A high-bandwidth communications system built by former graduate student Paul Sturmer, now at Blue Origin, transmits at 24 Gigahertz, allowing the satellite to quickly send reams of data. That system will send down a test packet from space.

    “Usually people buy most of the satellite and build one part of it. We built all the parts,” Northway said. “It was a pretty serious undertaking.”

    The UW group will control HuskySat-1 for three months. In the spring it will transfer ownership and responsibility to AMSAT, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, which provided the main communication system. The satellite will begin to lose altitude in about three years and will burn up as it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere. (NASA requires that all such objects deorbit within 25 years.)

    HuskySat-1 grew out of a special topics course in the UW Department of Earth & Space Sciences. In 2016 members formed a registered student organization, the Husky Satellite Lab at UW.

    “Being involved with this has taught me a lot,” said current team captain John Correy, a UW graduate student in aeronautics and astronautics. “But beyond that, it’s just validation that I’m in the right industry.”

    As the Husky Satellite Lab wraps up this half-decade-long effort it plans to next tackle a NanoLab project — a partly prebuilt system that can be adapted to conduct experiments in microgravity — for travel aboard a Blue Origin vehicle. Students plan to complete that project by spring of 2020.

    HuskySat-1 was supported by a NASA Undergraduate Student Instrument Project award, which funded the satellite’s development and launch with a private space contractor. The team also was supported by NASA, the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium, the UW and several companies that provided equipment for the satellite and antenna.

    See the full article here .


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    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

  • richardmitnick 10:53 am on August 21, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cubesats, European Space Agency's Euclid telescope, , , , , , , NASA's Lucy mission, NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope, Parker Solar Probe Plus,   

    From Science Alert: “Here Are NASA’s Wild Plans to Explore Time And Space For The Next 10 Years” 


    From Science Alert

    21 AUG 2019

    NASA hopes to reach a dead planet called Psyche. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

    NASA’s 10-year plan involves billions of dollars and spans millions of miles. And much like the universe, it’s only expanding.

    Last year, the agency announced that it’s planning to send astronauts back to the Moon and eventually build a base there, with a Mars-bound mission to follow in the years after that.

    In June, the agency introduced a mission that aims to fly a nuclear-powered helicopter over the surface of Titan, an icy Moon of Saturn’s, to scan for alien life. NASA wants to looking for life in other places too, like the ocean below the icy surface of Jupiter’s Moon Europa.

    Other future missions will try to photograph our entire cosmic history and map the dark matter and dark energy that govern our Universe.

    Here are some of NASA’s biggest and most ambitious plans for the coming decade.
    1. Several ground-breaking NASA missions are already in progress, including the Parker Solar Probe, which will will rocket past the Sun a total of 24 times.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker

    Launched: August 12, 2018

    Arrived: November 5, 2018

    The probe is travelling closer to the Sun than anything from Earth before it. The mission aims to investigate the forces behind solar wind, which could inform efforts to protect technology on Earth from the Sun’s flare-ups.

    Parker slingshots around the Sun at record speeds of up to 213,200 mph (343,000 km/h); it’s currently approaching its third close encounter. A powerful heat shield keeps the spacecraft’s equipment cool.

    The Parker Solar Probe will get closer to the sun than any other probe before it. (NASA Goddard/Youtube)

    2. Far from the Sun, New Horizons is exploring the Kuiper Belt, a region of millions of chunks of ice left over from the Solar System’s birth.

    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft

    Kuiper Belt. Minor Planet Center

    Launched: January 19, 2006

    Arrived at Ultima Thule: January 1, 2019

    The New Horizons spacecraft visited Pluto and the ice dwarfs surrounding it in 2015. In January, the spacecraft reached the farthest object anything human-made has ever visited: a snowman-shaped space rock called 2014 MU69 (or Ultima Thule).

    It sent back the following video of Ultima Thule, though it will likely take until late 2020 for scientists to receive and download all the data from New Horizons’ flyby.

    So far, we’ve learned that the primordial object contains methanol, water ice, and organic molecules.

    3. On the surface of Mars, the InSight lander is listening for quakes.

    NASA/Mars InSight Lander

    Launched: May 5, 2018

    Arrived: November 26, 2018

    Since the InSight lander touched down on the surface of the red planet, it has detected dozens of Mars quakes. The early data is giving scientists new insight into the planet’s internal structure.

    Illustration of the InSight lander on Mars. (NASA/JPL-CaltechAn)

    4. A new Mars rover will join InSight next year. NASA is currently building the vehicle in its Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

    NASA Mars 2020 rover schematic

    NASA Mars 2020 Rover

    Members of NASA’s Mars 2020 project after attaching the rover’s mast. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    5. Researchers hope a future mission to Mars could return the Martian rock samples that the Mars 2020 rover collects back to Earth.

    Planned launch: Unknown

    Anticipated arrival: Unknown

    Until NASA sends another robot to Mars that could launch the stored samples to Earth, the 2020 rover will store the samples in its belly and search for a place on Mars where it can stash them for pickup.

    Proposed Mars Sample Return mission launching samples towards Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    Planned launch: July 2020

    Anticipated arrival: February 2021

    The Mars 2020 rover will search for signs of ancient microbial alien life on the red planet, collect and stash rock samples, and test out technology that could pave the way for humans to walk the Martian surface one day.

    You can tune in to NASA’s live broadcast of the Mars 2020 rover’s construction anytime to watch the US$2.1 billion mission take shape.

    6. NASA eventually hopes to send a crewed mission to Mars. But before that, the agency plans to return astronauts to the Moon and built a lunar base there.

    Planned launch: Unknown

    Anticipated arrival: 2024

    NASA wants to send humans to the Moon again by 2024. Those would be the first boots on the lunar surface since the Apollo program ended over 45 years ago. This time, however, NASA wants to build a Moon-orbiting space station with a reusable lunar-landing system.

    The idea is that the lunar base could allow for more in-depth scientific research of the Moon, and potentially even enable us to mine resources there that could be converted to fuel for further space travel.

    7. From the lunar surface, astronauts may springboard to Mars.

    Planned launch: 2030s

    Anticipated arrival: 2030s

    The next Moon mission will test deep-space exploration systems that NASA hopes will carry humans on to Mars.

    Astronauts travelling to Mars would have to spend about three years away from Earth. In order to explore of the red planet, human travellers would have to be able to use the materials available on the lunar and Martian surfaces.

    NASA is already designing future astronauts’ gear. They’re sending spacesuit material on the Mars 2020 rover to test how it holds up in the planet’s harsh atmosphere. A deep-space habitat competition this year yielded a 3D-printable pod that could be constructed using materials found on Mars.

    Concept illustration of Martian habitats. (JPL/NASA)

    8. NASA also plans to investigate our Solar System’s past by launching a mission to an asteroid belt surrounding Jupiter.

    Planned launch: October 2021

    Anticipated arrival: 2027

    A mysterious swarm of Trojan asteroids – the term for space rocks that follow planets – trail Jupiter’s orbit around the Sun. NASA’s Lucy mission plans to visit six of them.

    “We know very little about these objects,” Jim Green, the leader of NASA’s planetary science program, said in a NASA video. “They may be captured asteroids, comets, or even Kuiper Belt objects.”

    What we do know is that the objects are as old as the Sun, so they can serve as a kind of fossil record of the Solar System.

    9. Relatively nearby, a spacecraft will scan for alien life in the saltwater ocean on Jupiter’s Moon Europa.

    Planned launch: 2020s

    Anticipated arrival: Unknown

    When Galileo Galilei first looked at Jupiter through his homemade telescope in 1610, he spotted four Moons circling the planet. Nearly 400 years later, NASA’s Galileo mission found evidence that one of those Moons, Europa, conceals a vast ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust.

    NASA is planning to visit that ocean with the Europa Clipper, a spacecraft that will fly by the Moon 45 times, getting as close at 16 miles above the Moon’s surface.

    NASA/Europa Clipper annotated

    Clipper will fly through water vapour plumes that shoot out from Europa’s surface (as seen in the NASA visual above) to analyse what might be in the ocean. Radar tools will also measure the thickness of the ice and scan for subsurface water.

    10. That investigation could help scientists prepare to land a future spacecraft on Europa’s surface and punch through the ice.

    NASA’s Lucy mission visiting asteroids near Jupiter. (Southwest Research Institute)

    Anticipated launch and arrival: Unknown

    The future lander would search for signs of life in the ocean, digging 4 inches below the surface to extract samples for analysis in a mini, on-the-go laboratory.

    11. A nuclear-powered helicopter called Dragonfly will take the search for alien life one planet further, to Saturn’s largest Moon, Titan.

    Dragonfly visiting sampling location on Titan. (NASA)

    Planned launch: 2026

    Anticipated arrival: 2034

    Titan is a world with ice, liquid methane pools, and a thick nitrogen atmosphere. It somewhat resembles early Earth, since it has carbon-rich organic materials like methane and ethane. Scientists suspect that an ocean of liquid water might lurk 60 miles below the ice.

    All that makes Titan a contender for alien life.

    But getting to the distant, cold Moon is not easy – Saturn only gets about 1 percent of the sunlight that bathes Earth, so a spacecraft can’t rely on solar energy. Instead, Dragonfly will propel itself using the heat of decaying plutonium.

    12. Another NASA team is developing a spacecraft to probe the metal core of a dead planet called Psyche.

    Planned launch: 2022

    Anticipated arrival: 2026

    Most of the asteroids in our Solar System are made of rock or ice, but Psyche is composed of iron and nickel. That’s similar to the makeup of Earth’s core, so scientists think Psyche could be a remnant of an early planet that was decimated by violent collisions billions of years ago.

    NASA is sending a probe to find out.

    “This is an opportunity to explore a new type of world – not one of rock or ice, but of metal,” Linda Elkins-Tanton, who’s leading the mission, said in a press release. “This is the only way humans will ever visit a core.”

    If Psyche really is the exposed core of a dead planet, it could reveal clues about the Solar System’s early years.

    The probe NASA plans to send to Psyche would be the first spacecraft to use light, rather than radio waves, to transmit information back to Earth. The agency gave the team the green light to start the final design and early assembly process in June.

    13. NASA also has 176 missions in the works that use CubeSats: 4-by-4-inch cube-shaped nanotechnology satellites.

    Three CubeSats ejected from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory. (NASA)

    NASA is partnering with 93 organisations across the US on these CubeSat projects. Such satellites have already been built and sent to space by an elementary school, a high school, and the Salish Kootenai College of the Flathead Reservation in Montana.

    The first CubeSats sent to deep space trailed behind the InSight Mars lander last year. They successfully sent data from the InSight lander back to Earth as it landed on the Martian surface.

    One planned mission using the nanotechnology will use lasers to search for ice on the Moon’s shadowy south pole. It’s expected to launch in November 2020.

    Another CubeSat mission, also set to launch in 2020, will fly past an asteroid near Earth and send back data. It will be the first exploration of an asteroid less than 100 meters in diameter.

    That data will help scientists plan for future human missions to asteroids, where astronauts might mine resources as they explore deep space.

    14. Closer to home, the European Space Agency’s Euclid telescope will study dark matter and dark energy.

    ESA/Euclid spacecraft

    Planned launch and arrival: 2022

    Dark matter makes up 85 percent of the universe, but nobody is sure what it is. Part of the problem is that we can’t see it because it doesn’t interact with light.

    Dark matter’s gravity holds the entire universe together, while an unknown force called dark energy pushes everything apart. Dark energy is winning, and that’s why the universe is expanding.

    As Euclid orbits Earth, the space telescope will measure the universe’s expansion and attempt to map the mysterious geometry of dark matter and energy.

    NASA is working with the ESA on imaging and infrared equipment for the telescope.

    15. The James Webb Space Telescope, which has a massive, 18-panel mirror, will scan the universe for life-hosting planets and attempt to look back in time to photograph the Big Bang.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    Planned launch and arrival: 2021

    It’s been almost 30 years since the Hubble Space Telescope launched. The James Webb Space Telescope is its planned replacement, and it packs new infrared technology to detect light beyond what the human eye can see.

    The telescope’s goal is to study every phase of the universe’s history in order to learn about how the first stars and galaxies formed, how planets are born, and where there might be life in the universe.

    A 21-foot-wide folding beryllium mirror will help the telescope observe faraway galaxies in detail. A five-layer, tennis court-size shield protects it from the Sun’s heat and blocks sunlight that could interfere with the images.

    16. The James Webb Space Telescope will be capable of capturing extremely faint signals. The farther it looks out into space, the more it will look back in time, so the telescope could even detect the first glows of the Big Bang.

    The telescope will also observe distant, young galaxies in detail we’ve never seen before.

    The expanding universe. (NASA)

    17. The Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is expected to detect thousands of new planets and test theories of general relativity and dark energy.


    Planned launch and arrival: mid-2020s

    WFIRST’s field of view will be 100 times greater than Hubble’s. Over its five-year lifetime, the space telescope will measure light from a billion galaxies and survey the inner Milky Way with the hope of finding about 2,600 exoplanets.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 12:42 pm on May 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: APEX Asteroid Prospection Explorer, , , , , Cubesats, , Juventas will be a ‘6-unit’ CubeSat   

    From European Space Agency: “Hera’s CubeSat to perform first radar probe of an asteroid” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    1 May 2019

    Juventas CubeSat

    Small enough to be an aircraft carry-on, the Juventas spacecraft nevertheless has big mission goals. Once in orbit around its target body, Juventas will unfurl an antenna larger than itself, to perform the very first subsurface radar survey of an asteroid.

    ESA’s proposed Hera mission for planetary defence will explore the twin Didymos asteroids, but it will not go there alone: it will also serve as mothership for Europe’s first two ‘CubeSats’ to travel into deep space.

    CubeSats are nanosatellite-class missions based on standardised 10-cm boxes, making maximum use of commercial off the shelf systems. Juventas will be a ‘6-unit’ CubeSat, selected to fly aboard Hera along with the similarly-sized APEX Asteroid Prospection Explorer, built by a Swedish-Finnish-German-Czech consortium.

    APEX CubeSat

    Juventas – the Roman name for the daughter of Hera – is being developed for ESA by the GomSpace company and GMV in Romania, together with consortia of additional partners developing the spacecraft instruments.

    Hera at Didymos

    “We’re packing a lot of complexity into the mission,” notes GomSpace systems engineer Hannah Goldberg. “One of the biggest misconceptions about CubeSats is that they are simple, but we have all the same systems as a standard-sized spacecraft.

    “Another reputation of CubeSats is that they don’t do that much, but we have multiple mission goals over the course of our month-long mission around the smaller Didymos asteroid. One of our CubeSat units is devoted to our low-frequency radar instrument, which will be a first in asteroid science.”

    Juventas will deploy a metre and a half long radar antenna, which will unfurl like a tape measure, and was developed by Astronika in Poland. This instrument is based on the heritage of the CONSERT radar that flew on ESA’s Rosetta comet chaser, overseen by Alain Herique of the Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG).

    Juventas with radar deployed

    The radar signals should reach one hundred metres down, giving insight into the asteroid’s internal structure. “Is it a rubble pile, or something more layered, or monolithic?” adds Hannah, who previously worked at asteroid mining company Planetary Resources before moving to GomSpace.

    “This is the sort of information that is going to be essential for future mining missions, to estimate where the resources are, how mixed up they are, and how much effort will be required to extract them.”

    ESA radar specialist Christopher Buck has worked on the instrument design with IPAG: “Our radar instrument’s size and power is much lower than those of previous missions, so what we’re doing is using a pseudo-random code sequence in the signals – think of it a poor man’s alternative. Navigation satellites use a comparable technique, allowing receivers to make up for their very low power.

    “We send a series of signals possessing constantly shifting signal phase, then we gradually build up a picture by correlating the reflections of these signals, employing their phase shifts as our guide. One reason we are able to do this is that we will be orbiting around the asteroid relatively slowly, on the order of a few centimetres per second, giving us longer integration times compared to orbits around Earth or other planets.”

    The technology proved itself with the Rosetta, where the CONSERT radar peered deep inside comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and helped locate the Philae lander on the comet’s surface. Juventas uses a more compact ‘monostatic’ version of the design.

    As Juventas orbits, the CubeSat will also be gathering data on the asteroid’s gravity field using both a dedicated 3-axis ‘gravimeter’ – first developed by the Royal Observatory of Belgium for Japan’s proposed Martian Moons eXploration mission – as well as its radio link back to Hera, measuring any Doppler shifting of communications signals caused by its proximity to the body.

    “But the mission is being designed to operate with minimal contact with its mothership and the ground, operating autonomously for days at a time,” says Hannah.

    “This is a big difference from Earth orbit, where communications are much simpler and more frequent. So we will fly in what is called a ‘self-stabilising terminator orbit’ around the asteroid, perpendicular to the Sun, requiring minimal station-keeping manoeuvring.”

    The final phase of the mission will come with a precisely-controlled attempt to land on the asteroid.

    “We’ll have gyroscopes and accelerometers aboard, so we will capture the force of our impact, and any follow-on bouncing, to gain insight into the asteroid’s surface properties – although we don’t know how well Juventas will continue to operate once it finally touches down. If we are able to successfully operate after the impact, we will continue to take local gravity field measurements from the asteroid surface.”

    The Hera mission, including its two CubeSats, will be presented to ESA’s Space19+ meeting this November, where Europe’s space ministers will take a final decision on flying the mission.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 1:19 pm on April 12, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Cubesats, , , ,   

    From University of New South Wales: “Sky’s the limit: celebrating engineering that’s out of this world” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    12 Apr 2019
    Cecilia Duong

    Researchers from UNSW Engineering are harnessing new technologies to help build Australia’s space future.

    An impression of UNSW Cubesat in orbit. Image: Jamie Tufrey

    On International Day of Human Space Flight – an annual celebration of the beginning of the space era for mankind that’s designed to reaffirm the important contribution of space science and technology in today’s world – UNSW Engineering is looking at some of its own space-related research highlights.

    Whether it’s finding ways to mine water on the moon or developing space cells with the highest efficiencies, researchers from UNSW Engineering are harnessing new technologies to help build Australia’s space future. Our student-led projects, such as BlueSAT and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA Rocketry), are also providing students with real-world experience in multi-disciplinary space engineering projects to continue to promote space technology in Australia.

    Here are a few highlights of how UNSW Engineering research is innovating both on Earth and in space.

    Mining water on the Moon
    Image: Shutterstock

    A team of UNSW Engineers have put together a multi-university, agency and industry project team to investigate the possibilities of mining water on the moon to produce rocket fuel.

    Find out more.

    Satellite solar technology comes down to Earth
    Solar cells used in space are achieving higher efficiencies than those used at ground level, and now there are ways to have them working on Earth without breaking the bank.

    Researchers from the School of Photovoltaics Renewable Energy Engineering are no strangers to setting new records for solar cell efficiency levels but Associate Professor Ned Ekins-Daukes has made it his mission to develop space cells with the highest efficiencies at the lowest weight.

    Find out more.

    Students shine in off-world robotics competition
    UNSW’s Off-World Robotics team – part of the long-running BLUEsat student-led project – achieved their best placing in the competition to date.

    A team of eight UNSW Engineering students came eighth in the European Rover Challenge (ERC) in Poland, one of the world’s biggest international space and robotics events, defeating 57 teams from around the globe.

    Find out more.

    Exploring a little-understood region above Earth
    Associate Professor Elias Aboutanios with UNSW-Ec0. Photo:Grant Turner

    UNSW-EC0, a CubeSat built by a team led by Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) deputy director Associate Professor Elias Aboutanios, is studying the atomic composition of the thermosphere using an on-board ion neutral mass spectrometer.

    Find out more.

    Rocketing into an internship
    Third-year Aerospace Engineering student, Sam Wilkinson, scored an internship at Rocket Lab in New Zealand.

    Third-year Aerospace Engineering student, Sam Wilkinson, describes how he landed an internship at an international aerospace company, which works with organisations such as NASA, without going through the usual application process.

    Find out more.

    See the full article here .


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    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

  • richardmitnick 8:49 am on April 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Cubesats,   

    From European Space Agency: “ESA’s ‘Cubesat central’ for smaller missions into space” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    2 April 2019

    Hiber CubeSat testing

    ESA has set up a dedicated unit to work on the standardised nanosatellites called ‘CubeSats’, teaming up with European companies to develop low-cost technology-testing missions. Missions in preparation include a double CubeSat to test rendezvous and docking techniques, and one to explore near-Earth asteroids.

    A fast-growing sector of Europe’s space economy, CubeSats are small satellites based on standardised 10 cm cubic units – compact enough to fit inside a backpack, but increasingly capable of delivering valuable results from orbit. Last year’s ESA CubeSat GomX-4B tested orbit control manoeuvres with micro-propulsion and intersatellite radio links for rapid data relay.


    This year, three ESA technology-testing CubeSats for atmospheric reentry measurements, ozone monitoring and solar radiation studies are on the way to launch, and other ESA directorates are now developing their own missions.

    Picasso CubeSat, launching in June

    “We’ve been working with many small- to medium-sized European companies within this new part of the space sector,” comments Roger Walker, heading ESA’s new CubeSat Systems Unit at its ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands. “Our projects aim to fly promising new technologies in space at low cost, and rapid pace, which our partner companies can then exploit commercially.

    “We’ve set up a standardised lean project approach, by tailoring existing European Coordination for Space Standardization regulations specifically for CubeSats – the European rulebook for mission development. It’s a way of managing risk throughout the CubeSat engineering and qualification process, to draw maximum benefit from these nanosatellites in terms of timeliness and low cost while ensuring the missions will work as planned and remain within their low budgets.

    “These standards have been well received by our industry partners, and some of them are adapting them for their own commercial projects. Having such an ESA stamp of approval is valued highly by commercial customers who are looking at using this emerging technology.”

    Deep expertise on miniature technologies

    ESA’s new CubeSat Systems Unit is planned as a centre of excellence, building up deep expertise in miniaturised technology and equipment and CubeSat systems integration, at the service of CubeSat projects across the Agency.


    Roger adds: “We’re overseeing a total of nine CubeSat projects at the moment at various stages of design and development, including two highly innovative missions that form part of our CubeSat roadmap presented to ESA Member States for funding in our General Support Technology Programme at the Space19+ Ministerial Conference later this year.

    “The M-ARGO Miniaturised – Asteroid Remote Geophysical Observer, is a solo CubeSat for asteroid exploration [LINK to image caption] while the RACE, Rendezvous Autonomous CubeSats Experiment, will test out autonomous rendezvous and docking capabilities for CubeSats – opening up new ways of running missions as multi-CubeSat ‘aggregated satellites’ that could be build up in space over time.”

    Docking CubeSats

    Meanwhile ESA’s Directorate of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications is developing a Pioneer series of CubeSat missions, to trial novel telecoms technologies, ESA’s Directorate of Operations has OpsSat due to fly – an in-orbit testbed for innovative mission control software – and the Directorate of Earth Observation is due to fly FSSCat, a double CubeSat mission for tandem observation of the polar regions.


    FSSCat, a double CubeSat mission

    ESA’s Directorate of Human and Robotic Exploration is considering a CubeSat mission to test out a key capability for Mars Sample Return – optical detection and navigation to a sample container from orbit while its the Science Directorate is also adapting some CubeSat technologies for operation in the deep space environment as well as studying the potential use of CubeSats in support of planetary science missions.

    Support for reaching space

    SIMBA CubeSat, due to launch in June

    ESA is also providing access to ground facilities – control rooms and ground stations – as well as know-how via the Agency’s ESOC mission control centre for universities, startups and businesses aiming to get their own CubeSats and small satellites into space.

    “In general we see good support from ESA Member States who don’t have a strong national space programme,” explains Roger. “They might ask us to run projects with their industry, benefiting from our technical management expertise. Another strength is that we can set up collaborations across Member States, when all the critical technology needed is not available in a single country, linking up companies to make a viable mission.”

    Qarman CubeSat in Hertz chamber

    The CubeSat Systems Unit – part of ESA’s Systems Department Project Office Project Office of the Systems Department, in ESA’s Directorate of Technical and Engineering Quality – can also facilitate access to CubeSat-friendly test facilities, such as the vibration and thermal test equipment of ESTEC’s Mechanical Systems Lab, and the Magnetic Coil Facility used to measure a CubeSat’s residual magnetic field – increasing the precision of attitude control systems using onboard ‘magnetotorquers’.

    “One of the price and performance advantages of CubeSats is their use of ‘commercial off the shelf’ parts,” says Roger.

    Magnetic cleaning of a CubeSat

    “But these items can be susceptible to space radiation. What we have done and continue to do is organise proton beam testing of electronics boards for multiple CubeSats at once, using the various radiation facilities that ESA has access to, screening them for vulnerabilities in a major de-risking exercise.”

    ESA’s antenna test facilities are also at the disposal of CubeSat developers; a Dutch-made Hiber nanosatellite designed to serve the Internet of Things was recently evaluated in ESTEC’s state-of-the-art Hertz chamber.

    Hiber CubeSat in Hertz

    And because CubeSats are all built to the same dimensions, the Agency can help find them low-cost launch opportunities using standardised deployment devices.

    The inaugural flight of the ESA-developed ‘Small Spacecraft Mission System’ dispenser – devoted to CubeSats and other small satellites – on a Vega launcher takes place this June.

    CubeSat Industry Days

    Testing CubeSat pair in Mechanical Systems Lab

    Europe’s CubeSat industry is made up of dozens of companies. “A good barometer is attendance of our CubeSat Industry Days, which take place every two years,” notes Roger.

    “We had more than 250 participants for the last event from over 150 different organisations, and it’s looking like a lot higher attendance still for our next Industry Days in June, discussing all aspects of the CubeSat sector.”

    How we make a space mission


    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 3:04 pm on March 26, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Microsatellites bring big opportunities in the space industry", Cubesats, , Nanosatellites,   

    From Tokyo Institute of Technology: “Microsatellites bring big opportunities in the space industry” 


    From Tokyo Institute of Technology

    Love of space drives invention for students and researchers.

    On January 18, 2019, a 100-ton rocket lifted off from Uchinoura in Kagoshima Prefecture. Piercing the crisp blue sky of winter, the 26-meter long Epsilon-4 rocketed heavenward with a payload of satellites developed by private businesses and universities under the auspices of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

    These satellites were put into sun-synchronous orbits at an altitude of 500 kilometers. Their main missions were demonstrations of technology needed to enable business in, and utilization of space, a growing arena of activity in recent years. Out of the total 13 themes selected for this launch, Tokyo Tech handled two: an innovative Earth sensor and star tracker applying deep learning (DLAS), and a demonstration for advanced deployable structures based on 3U CubeSats (OrigamiSat-1).

    Deep Learning Attitude Sensor. Tokyo Tech.

    OrigamiSat-1. Tokyo Tech.

    Compared to conventional full-sized satellites, microsatellites can be developed at a lower cost and under a reduced lead-time. Thus they are expected to play a crucial role in space business and utilization. Tokyo Tech is a global pioneer of this satellite format, and we interviewed the head of the Laboratory for Space Systems at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, School of Engineering, Professor Saburo Matunaga. We also introduce the two JAXA-selected projects currently in orbit, as well as two Tokyo Tech ventures, Axelspace and UMITRON, that are working to advance private-sector space development.

    Axelspace. Axelspace Corporation.


    Tokyo Tech’s satellite development history

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Tokyo Tech is the top national university for science and technology in Japan with a history spanning more than 130 years. Of the approximately 10,000 students at the Ookayama, Suzukakedai, and Tamachi Campuses, half are in their bachelor’s degree program while the other half are in master’s and doctoral degree programs. International students number 1,200. There are 1,200 faculty and 600 administrative and technical staff members.

    In the 21st century, the role of science and technology universities has become increasingly important. Tokyo Tech continues to develop global leaders in the fields of science and technology, and contributes to the betterment of society through its research, focusing on solutions to global issues. The Institute’s long-term goal is to become the world’s leading science and technology university.

  • richardmitnick 1:18 pm on January 7, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , APEX will also make a landing on one of the asteroids, , , , , Cubesats, Didymos asteroids, , Hera is set to be humankind’s first mission to a binary asteroid system, Hera mission, , Juventas will measure the gravity field as well as the internal structure of the smaller of the two Didymos asteroids   

    From European Space Agency: “CubeSats joining Hera mission to asteroid system” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    Hera at Didymos

    7 January 2019

    When ESA’s planned Hera mission journeys to its target binary asteroid system, it will not be alone. The spacecraft will carry two tiny CubeSats for deployment around – and eventual landing on – the Didymos asteroids. Each companion spacecraft will be small enough to fit inside a briefcase, as compared to the desk-sized Hera.

    CubeSats are nanosatellites based on standardised 10 cm-sized units. Hera has room to deliver two ‘six-unit’ CubeSat missions to the Didymos asteroid system – a 780 m-diameter mountain-sized main body is orbited by a 160 m moon, informally called ‘Didymoon’, about the same size as the Great Pyramid of Giza.

    The Hera mission received proposals for CubeSats from across Europe, and an evaluation board has now made the final selection.

    “We’re very happy to have these high-quality CubeSat missions join us to perform additional bonus science alongside their Hera mothership,” explains Hera manager Ian Carnelli.

    “Carrying added instruments and venturing much closer to our target bodies, they will give different perspectives and complementary investigations on this exotic binary asteroid. They will also give us valuable experience of close proximity operations relayed by the Hera mothercraft in extreme low-gravity conditions. This will be very valuable to many future missions.”

    APEX CubeSat

    Paolo Martino, Hera spacecraft lead engineer adds: “The idea of building CubeSats for deep space is relatively new, but was recently validated by NASA’s InSight landing on Mars last November, when a pair of accompanying CubeSats succeeded in relaying the lander’s radio signals back to Earth – as well as returning imagery of the Red Planet.”

    The first CubeSat companion is called the Asteroid Prospection Explorer (or ‘APEX’), and was developed by a Swedish/Finnish/Czech/German consortium. It will perform detailed spectral measurements of both asteroids’ surfaces – measuring the sunlight reflected by Didymos and breaking down its various colours to discover how these asteroids have interacted with the space environment, pinpointing any differences in composition between the two. In addition, APEX will make magnetic readings that will give insight into their interior structure of these bodies.

    Juventas CubeSat

    Guided by a navigation camera and a ‘laser radar’ (lidar) instrument, APEX will also make a landing on one of the asteroids, gathering valuable data in the process using inertial sensors, and going on to perform close-up observations of the asteroid’s surface material.

    The other CubeSat is called Juventas, developed by Danish company GomSpace and GMV in Romania, and will measure the gravity field as well as the internal structure of the smaller of the two Didymos asteroids.

    In close orbit around Didymoon, Juventas will line up with Hera to perform satellite-to-satellite radio-science experiments and carry out a low-frequency radar survey of the asteroid interior, similar to performing a detailed ‘X-ray scan’ of Didymoon to unveil its interior. The adventure will end with a landing, using the dynamics of any likely bouncing to capture details of the asteroid’s surface material – followed by several days of surface operations.

    Hera is set to be humankind’s first mission to a binary asteroid system. As well as testing technologies in deep space and gathering crucial science data, Hera is designed to be Europe’s contribution to an international planetary defence effort: it would survey the crater and measure orbital deviation of Didymoon caused by the earlier collision of a NASA probe, called DART. This unique experiment will validate the asteroid deflection technique referred to as kinetic impactor, enabling humankind to protect our planet from asteroid impacts.

    Next, the two CubeSats will have their designs refined and interfaces with their mothership finalised, in line with continuing design work on the Hera mission itself, which will be presented to ESA’s Space19+ meeting towards the end of this year, where Europe’s space ministers will take a final decision on flying the mission.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 2:26 pm on January 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Cubesats,   

    From MIT News: “Tiny satellites could be “guide stars” for huge next-generation telescopes” 

    MIT News
    MIT Widget

    From MIT News

    January 4, 2019
    Jennifer Chu

    In the coming decades, massive segmented space telescopes may be launched to peer even closer in on far-out exoplanets and their atmospheres. To keep these mega-scopes stable, MIT researchers say that small satellites can follow along, and act as “guide stars,” by pointing a laser back at a telescope to calibrate the system, to produce better, more accurate images of distant worlds. Image: Christine Daniloff, MIT

    Researchers design CubeSats with lasers to provide steady reference light for telescopes investigating distant planets.

    There are more than 3,900 confirmed planets beyond our solar system. Most of them have been detected because of their “transits” — instances when a planet crosses its star, momentarily blocking its light. These dips in starlight can tell astronomers a bit about a planet’s size and its distance from its star.

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    But knowing more about the planet, including whether it harbors oxygen, water, and other signs of life, requires far more powerful tools. Ideally, these would be much bigger telescopes in space, with light-gathering mirrors as wide as those of the largest ground observatories. NASA engineers are now developing designs for such next-generation space telescopes, including “segmented” telescopes with multiple small mirrors that could be assembled or unfurled to form one very large telescope once launched into space.

    NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope is an example of a segmented primary mirror, with a diameter of 6.5 meters and 18 hexagonal segments. Next-generation space telescopes are expected to be as large as 15 meters, with over 100 mirror segments.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    One challenge for segmented space telescopes is how to keep the mirror segments stable and pointing collectively toward an exoplanetary system. Such telescopes would be equipped with coronagraphs — instruments that are sensitive enough to discern between the light given off by a star and the considerably weaker light emitted by an orbiting planet. But the slightest shift in any of the telescope’s parts could throw off a coronagraph’s measurements and disrupt measurements of oxygen, water, or other planetary features.

    Now MIT engineers propose that a second, shoebox-sized spacecraft equipped with a simple laser could fly at a distance from the large space telescope and act as a “guide star,” providing a steady, bright light near the target system that the telescope could use as a reference point in space to keep itself stable.

    In a paper published today in The Astronomical Journal, the researchers show that the design of such a laser guide star would be feasible with today’s existing technology. The researchers say that using the laser light from the second spacecraft to stabilize the system relaxes the demand for precision in a large segmented telescope, saving time and money, and allowing for more flexible telescope designs.

    “This paper suggests that in the future, we might be able to build a telescope that’s a little floppier, a little less intrinsically stable, but could use a bright source as a reference to maintain its stability,” says Ewan Douglas, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a lead author on the paper.

    The paper also includes Kerri Cahoy, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, along with graduate students James Clark and Weston Marlow at MIT, and Jared Males, Olivier Guyon, and Jennifer Lumbres from the University of Arizona.

    In the crosshairs

    For over a century, astronomers have been using actual stars as “guides” to stabilize ground-based telescopes.

    “If imperfections in the telescope motor or gears were causing your telescope to track slightly faster or slower, you could watch your guide star on a crosshairs by eye, and slowly keep it centered while you took a long exposure,” Douglas says.

    In the 1990s, scientists started using lasers on the ground as artificial guide stars by exciting sodium in the upper atmosphere, pointing the lasers into the sky to create a point of light some 40 miles from the ground. Astronomers could then stabilize a telescope using this light source, which could be generated anywhere the astronomer wanted to point the telescope.

    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun

    Glistening against the awesome backdrop of the night sky above ESO_s Paranal Observatory, four laser beams project out into the darkness from Unit Telescope 4 UT4 of the VLT.

    “Now we’re extending that idea, but rather than pointing a laser from the ground into space, we’re shining it from space, onto a telescope in space,” Douglas says. Ground telescopes need guide stars to counter atmospheric effects, but space telescopes for exoplanet imaging have to counter minute changes in the system temperature and any disturbances due to motion.

    The space-based laser guide star idea arose out of a project that was funded by NASA. The agency has been considering designs for large, segmented telescopes in space and tasked the researchers with finding ways of bringing down the cost of the massive observatories.

    “The reason this is pertinent now is that NASA has to decide in the next couple years whether these large space telescopes will be our priority in the next few decades,” Douglas says. “That decision-making is happening now, just like the decision-making for the Hubble Space Telescope happened in the 1960s, but it didn’t launch until the 1990s.’”

    Star fleet

    Cahoy’s lab has been developing laser communications for use in CubeSats, which are shoebox-sized satellites that can be built and launched into space at a fraction of the cost of conventional spacecraft.

    For this new study, the researchers looked at whether a laser, integrated into a CubeSat or slightly larger SmallSat, could be used to maintain the stability of a large, segmented space telescope modeled after NASA’s LUVOIR (for Large UV Optical Infrared Surveyor), a conceptual design that includes multiple mirrors that would be assembled in space.

    NASA Large UV Optical Infrared Surveyor (LUVOIR)

    Researchers have estimated that such a telescope would have to remain perfectly still, within 10 picometers — about a quarter the diameter of a hydrogen atom — in order for an onboard coronagraph to take accurate measurements of a planet’s light, apart from its star.

    “Any disturbance on the spacecraft, like a slight change in the angle of the sun, or a piece of electronics turning on and off and changing the amount of heat dissipated across the spacecraft, will cause slight expansion or contraction of the structure,” Douglas says. “If you get disturbances bigger than around 10 picometers, you start seeing a change in the pattern of starlight inside the telescope, and the changes mean that you can’t perfectly subtract the starlight to see the planet’s reflected light.”

    The team came up with a general design for a laser guide star that would be far enough away from a telescope to be seen as a fixed star — about tens of thousands of miles away — and that would point back and send its light toward the telescope’s mirrors, each of which would reflect the laser light toward an onboard camera. That camera would measure the phase of this reflected light over time. Any change of 10 picometers or more would signal a compromise to the telescope’s stability that, onboard actuators could then quickly correct.

    To see if such a laser guide star design would be feasible with today’s laser technology, Douglas and Cahoy worked with colleagues at the University of Arizona to come up with different brightness sources, to figure out, for instance, how bright a laser would have to be to provide a certain amount of information about a telescope’s position, or to provide stability using models of segment stability from large space telescopes. They then drew up a set of existing laser transmitters and calculated how stable, strong, and far away each laser would have to be from the telescope to act as a reliable guide star.

    In general, they found laser guide star designs are feasible with existing technologies, and that the system could fit entirely within a SmallSat about the size of a cubic foot. Douglas says that a single guide star could conceivably follow a telescope’s “gaze,” traveling from one star to the next as the telescope switches its observation targets. However, this would require the smaller spacecraft to journey hundreds of thousands of miles paired with the telescope at a distance, as the telescope repositions itself to look at different stars.

    Instead, Douglas says a small fleet of guide stars could be deployed, affordably, and spaced across the sky, to help stabilize a telescope as it surveys multiple exoplanetary systems. Cahoy points out that the recent success of NASA’s MARCO CubeSats, which supported the Mars Insight lander as a communications relay, demonstrates that CubeSats with propulsion systems can work in interplanetary space, for longer durations and at large distances.

    NASA/Mars InSight Lander

    Marco Cubesats in support of NASA Mars Insight Lander for radio relay

    Depiction of NASA JPL MarCo cubesat

    “Now we’re analyzing existing propulsion systems and figuring out the optimal way to do this, and how many spacecraft we’d want leapfrogging each other in space,” Douglas says. “Ultimately, we think this is a way to bring down the cost of these large, segmented space telescopes.”

    This research was funded in part by a NASA Early Stage Innovation Award.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

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    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

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  • richardmitnick 5:36 am on August 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Cubesats, JPL Cubesat MarCO Mars Cube One   

    From Science Magazine: “Tiny spacecraft are breaking out of Earth’s orbit” 

    From Science Magazine

    Aug. 23, 2018
    Eric Hand

    The Mars Cube One mission—the first interplanetary CubeSats—will coast past the Red Planet this fall.

    JPL Cubesat MarCO Mars Cube One

    Cheap, small satellites have swarmed into Earth orbit over the past decade, cutting the cost of studying our home planet from space. Now, these spacecraft, some no bigger than a briefcase, are becoming capable enough to venture into deep space—or at least the inner solar system. Two are halfway to Mars, more than a dozen planetary probes are in development, and scientists are coming up with ever more daring ideas for doing cheap, high-risk interplanetary science.

    “Planetary is definitely getting excited,” Lori Glaze, head of NASA’s planetary science division, said last week at a symposium on small deep-space probes at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Earlier this year, NASA began to accept proposals for a line of small planetary missions, with costs capped at $55 million. Glaze says 12 teams have submitted proposals, and the agency plans to select several finalists in February 2019. Europe, too, has plans for small planetary probes, also known as CubeSats for the cube-shaped modules from which they are built. “We see now the potential for interplanetary CubeSats,” says Roger Walker, the European Space Agency’s technology CubeSat manager in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

    Small satellites can be assembled from low-cost components and released by the dozen from a single rocket. But systems key to interplanetary flight, including propulsion, communication, and navigation, have traditionally been too bulky to fit into a small package.

    A mission called Mars Cube One (MarCO), twin craft launched in May along with the Mars InSight lander, is breaking that size barrier.

    NASAMars Insight Lander

    Built from six standard, 10-centimeter cubes, they are meant to provide a communication relay for InSight as it descends to the surface. But Glaze says the craft, which passed the halfway point in their journey last week, are already pioneers. “These CubeSats have flown farther than any ever before,” she says. “They’ve already demonstrated the ability to do a comm relay.” An unfurled radio antenna panel, three times the size of the CubeSats themselves, transmits a trickle of data directly to Earth using the CubeSats’ limited solar power.

    MarCO also showcases a miniature guidance, navigation, and control system developed by Blue Canyon Technologies in Boulder, Colorado. The technology has helped make CubeSats attractive for space science, says Dan Hegel, Blue Canyon’s director for advanced development. “CubeSats were tumbling around, not doing much,” he says. “There was no motivation before to try and shrink your instrument.” The company shrank reaction wheels, gyroscopes, and star trackers into a system that sells for less than $150,000 and fits in half a cube.

    Propulsion is a lingering concern. The small craft may need to change course, or slow down to orbit a planet, moon, or asteroid. Although MarCO’s propulsion system occupies half of the craft, it holds only enough fuel to make small trajectory adjustments en route to Mars, and it squirts pressurized gas like a fire extinguisher, an inefficient approach. As a result, the CubeSats will helplessly coast past the Red Planet after completing their mission.

    CubeSats in Earth orbit have tested solar sails, thin mirrored foils that deliver a gentle push from the pressure of sunlight. Other developers are betting on solar electric propulsion systems. A device built by ExoTerra Resource in Littleton, Colorado, uses electricity from solar panels to bombard a xenon gas “fuel” with a beam of electrons, creating a charged plasma. An electric field shoots the plasma out the back, generating a feeble thrust. No bigger than a hockey puck, the device, called a Hall thruster, uses fuel much more efficiently than conventional rockets do, ExoTerra President Michael VanWoerkom says. “If you’re willing to wait longer to get there, you can package a lot of propellant into a very small space,” he says.

    A big test of propulsion technologies will come at the end of 2019, when NASA’s heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System, is due for its maiden voyage. It will carry 13 CubeSats, many of them focused on moon science. “Almost all are using different propulsion technologies,” says Goddard’s Barbara Cohen, principal investigator for one of the missions, Lunar Flashlight, an effort to confirm the presence of ice in permanently shadowed regions of polar craters by shining lasers into them.

    Better propulsion could help solve another problem facing planetary small satellites: a lack of rocket rides. CubeSats often piggyback on larger mission launches, but rideshares beyond low-Earth orbit are rare. Solar electric propulsion systems could help craft released into low-Earth orbits make an escape. A small satellite equipped with a Hall thruster could spiral out from Earth to the moon in a few months, VanWoerkom says. Reaching Mars would take a few years.

    Scientists are starting to have big dreams for their small packages. Tilak Hewagama, a planetary scientist at the University of Maryland in College Park, wants to send a small satellite to intercept a comet on its first arrival in the solar system. Most comets have swung around the sun many times, and their once-pristine surfaces have grown weathered. But nearly every year, astronomers discover a few that are swooping in for the first time. By then, it is too late to develop a spacecraft to study them, Hewagama says. But a small satellite already parked in a stable orbit could maneuver in time to witness the comet’s passage up close—a risky plan that Hewagama says NASA wouldn’t be willing to pursue for a larger, more expensive craft.

    Timothy Stubbs, a planetary scientist at Goddard, wants to use two 30-kilogram satellites to explore the origin of curious bright swirls on the surface of the moon. One idea is that weak magnetic fields in moon rocks—implanted by comet impacts or a long-extinct magnetic dynamo—might be repelling the solar wind particles that weather and darken the surrounding soil. But understanding the interactions between the particles and the fields requires skimming the moon in a close, unstable orbit that would require large amounts of fuel to maintain. Stubbs’s solution: Orbit two small satellites in tandem, linked by a thin Kevlar tether 25 kilometers long, so that a satellite in a higher orbit can stabilize its mate a mere 2 kilometers above the surface.

    Both teams plan to submit proposals to the new NASA funding program—if they can whittle costs down to fit the $55 million cap. Small satellites may be cheap, but developing a deep-space mission traditionally requires a big team and lots of testing to pare down risk. Symposium organizer Geronimo Villanueva, a Goddard planetary scientist, says NASA officials are working on changing the rules for small satellites headed for deep space so that higher risk levels are acceptable. “We need to change the way we do business,” he says.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 12:44 pm on August 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Cubesats, , Farther together   

    From European Space Agency: “Farther, together” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    Farther, together

    This image of three miniature satellites or CubeSats freshly launched into space is a striking reminder of human cooperation at the heart of space exploration.

    Bhutan’s first ever satellite along with others from Malaysia and the Philippines were released into their respective orbits from the International Space Station on 10 August.

    While the launch was a first for Bhutan, it was just another day on the International Space Station that was built and is maintained by thousands of people across the globe.

    Launched in 1998, the Space Station is the culmination of years of international planning and partnership between the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, and participating European countries.

    In its 20 years of operation it has hosted many international flight crews, launched global operations and conducted research from the world-wide scientific community.

    It is not only a technological achievement but a successful testament to partnership across borders.

    ESA is continuing along these lines of partnership and cooperation in its new European vision for space exploration.

    In addition to committing its support for the Space Station, the agency is partnering with the commercial sector to make the Space Station more accessible to all with programmes such as the International Commercial Experiments Service, or ICE Cubes.

    The agency is also setting its sights beyond low-Earth orbit, with ambitious plans for the Moon, a deep space gateway and a Mars landing.

    For the Moon, ESA is preparing for a robotic landing in partnership with Russia as early as 2022. The mission will look for water ice.

    Returning humans to the Moon is underway in collaboration with NASA on the Orion vehicle, with a European service module at its core, that will build bridges to Moon and Mars by sending humans further into space than ever before.

    Like the International Space Station, this new age of exploration will be achieved not in competition, but through international cooperation.

    ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst put it best when posted this image on social media, writing “If you want to go far, go together.”

    We’re already on it.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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.

    ESA50 Logo large

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