Achieving Science with CubeSats

Achieving Science with CubeSats: Thinking Inside the Box

A great presentation by Thomas Zurbuchen on Cubesats and where we are today.

Thomas Zurbuchen holds a PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Bern, Switzerland and was a recipient of a Swiss National Science Foundation award before coming to the University of Michigan in 1998. Since then, he has received numerous awards, including the prestigious U.S. Presidential Early Career Award, which represents the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers. A specialist in the robotic exploration of space, Zurbuchen served as team leader for the development of NASA’s Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer, an instrument aboard the Messenger spacecraft, which made its first Mercury flyby in 2008. Professor Zurbuchen is also part of several committees of the National Academy of Sciences and NASA.

ESA Cubesat competition winners

signal_from_e-st_r-II27 May 2016 – The challenge for the worldwide radio amateur community to start listening out for three new orbiting CubeSats was set on 21 April. ESA’s Education Office published the transmission frequencies of the student-built satellites that were about to be launched as part of the Fly Your Satellite! Programme, and invited the radio amateur community to listen out for them.

The first three radio amateurs to send a recorded signal from AAUSAT4, e-st@r-II or OUFTI-1 would receive a prize from ESA’s Education Office.

Back at the beginning of the Space Race, the Soviet Union would anonymously supply Jodrell Bank radio observatory, UK, with the frequencies needed to hear the signals from its early spacecraft. This allowed the UK astronomers to confirm Russia’s progress to an initially sceptical world in a time of rising international tension.

This new publication of frequencies was designed to stimulate friendly competition and bring the world together. It worked! Hundreds of radio amateurs stretching across the world rose to the task.

The CubeSats started sending signals after their release from the Soyuz VS-14 rocket and the triggering of their automatic activation sequence. Participants from Russia, USA, Poland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Brazil, Italy, Denmark, and more tuned their antennas and listened.

Thanks to skill and patience on the ground, the winners come from Russia, the United States of America, Germany, and the Netherlands.

CubeSats_orbiting_Earth_mediumContact with the first CubeSat came at 00:53:51 UTC on 26 April 2016, within an hour of its separation from the launcher. Dmitri Paschkow, Russia, heard the signal from OUFTI-1 using two receiving stations, in Kemerovo and Ruzaevka. This is not the first time he has been the first to hear transmissions from CubeSats. In 2013, he picked-up Estonia’s ESTCube-1 satellite before anyone else and repeated the feat the following year for the Lithuanian’s LituanicaSAT-1.

Upon hearing OUFTI-1, he communicated the news immediately. “I understand that the students are worried [to hear from their satellite] and decided to please them!” says Paschkow.

Just over an hour after the first signal from OUFTI-1 was recorded, the next CubeSat checked in.

AAUSAT-4 was heard over California, US, by Justin Foley of California Polytechnic State University. He had a personal interest in the mission because some of his colleagues had developed the P-POD deployer that was used to eject the CubeSats into orbit.

He was ready at the receiver from the moment of deployment but heard nothing on that first pass, probably because the activation sequence had not yet completed. The signal came through on the second pass, arriving at 02:02 UTC.

“It was extremely exciting to see signals from the newly launched satellite, and witness the beginning of a space mission”, says Foley.

Sentinel 1B décolle depuis KourouThen the wait began for e-st@r-II. At 05:40:58 UTC, something dimly lit the screen of Mike Rupprecht in Germany. “It is always a good feeling to hear the signals of new satellites. Often the ground station can receive [signals from] their own satellite [only] much later. So the Cubesat teams are very grateful if they get help from the amateur radio community”, he says.

But something was not quite right. It certainly looked like a signal from the last remaining CubeSat,but why was the message so faint? It galvanised the amateur radio community to look harder.

Just a few minutes later, at 05:46 UTC, another signal from OUFTI-1 was received from ESA’s ESTEC centre in The Netherlands, where a little group of ESA engineers were also taking part in the effort to catch the early transmissions of the three “Fly Your Satellite!” CubeSats.

A special mention goes to a young radio amateur who scored a personal best. Twelve year-old space enthusiast Matteo Micheletti from Belgium caught the OUFTI-1 signal with a portable Log periodic antenna and a portable receiver. His triumph occurred on 1 May 2016 between 17:34 and17:39 UTC.

Back on the hunt for e-st@r-II, Jan van Gils, from the Netherlands, has been collaborating with small satellite operators for a couple of years now. He enjoys the fact that he can support them by receiving and decoding their signals. “It is always a trill to hear signals from newly launched satellites and inform the students and researchers that their work is operational,” he says.

Catching the signal from e-st@r-II was not a quick job, however. He had to wait until 2 May at 16:38:05 UTC to receive a signal from e-st@r-II that was strong enough to be decoded. Why e-st@r-II was only transmitting weak signals is under investigation, but the most important news is that all three CubeSats are functioning and transmitting, and their signals can be decoded.

To mark their success, the radio amateur winners will each receive a Fly Your Satellite! Poster, a goodie bag and a scale 1:1 3D printed model of a CubeSat from ESA’s Education Office.

Fitcheck CU4A separate acknowledgement also goes to the three ESTEC telecommunication specialists Alberto Busso, Paolo Concari, and Marco Mascarello, who, during their spare time, worked enthusiastically to support the university student teams in their efforts to catch and decode the early CubeSat transmissions.

“Competitions like this help to demonstrate that space is not that far away. We all rely on space for services we use in our everyday lives. The launch and the start of operations of these 3 student-built CubeSats were a terrific success, and I’m delighted that hundreds of people from around the world joined us in the effort to catch their first signals”, says Piero Galeone, Head of Tertiary Education at ESA and Fly Your Satellite! programme manager.

Credits ESA education – Original blog post

UWE-3 News

UWE-3 News: Status report

On 21st of May 2016 UWE-3 celebrated 2.5 years in space without any significant failures. Batteries, EPS, OBC and ADCS are fine, nevertheless we were confronted with a minor problem with one of the radios UWE-3 autonomously recovered from. Since then UWE-3 is in a very stable condition again.

Some weeks ago we have re-initiated operations with UWE-3 on an interim basis. The goal is to test new magnetic control algorithms in space. Therefore we operate the satellite on the 436.395200 MHz frequency and perform data downloads from time to time. In the figure below the satellite’s rotation rate w is shown for one of the experiments. The goal was to establish a rotation about the satellite’s X-axis (blue) at 10 deg/s while the Y/Z-axes should be at 0 deg/s. In general the desired rotation rate could be achieved but with major deviations from the setpoint. With the intention of optimizing the relevant control laws we will continue with these experiments within the next days and weeks.

UWE-3-news-23-05-2016

During our experiments we received an outstanding support from the radio community from all over the world we are very thankful for. The received packets were instantaneous injected into our algorithms and delivered an important contribution to our research work. We would like to express our special thanks to DK3WN, PE0SAT, DL8MCO, EU1XX, ON4HF, Rainer, JA5BLZ, JA6PL, CU2JX, LU4EOU, JA1GDE, SP7THR, G7GQW, YC3BVG, JF1EUY, JE9PEL, JE1CVL, JO1PTD, ZL4JL, EA7ADI, K4KDR, JA0CAW, JH4XSY, PA2EON, SM0TGU. THANK YOU!

Yours sincerely,

UWE-3 Team.

UWE-3 Mission Logo

Es’Hail-2 satellite frequencies

Amsat-DL has announced the P4-A Frequencies for Narrow (NB) and Wideband (WB) transponder on Es’Hail-2 geostationary satellite. It will be launched in December 2016. Latest launch information is Q1/2017.

X-Band Downlink:

  • 89 cm dishes in rainy areas at EOC like Brazil or Thailand
  • 60 cm around coverage peak
  • 75 cm dishes at peak -2dB
  • NB: linear vertical polarisation
  • WB: linear horizontal polarisation

S-Band NB-Uplink:

  • narrow band modes like SSB, CW
  • 5W nominal Uplink power (22.5 dBi antenna gain, 75cm dish)
  • RHCP polarisation

S-Band WB-Uplink (DATV):

  • wide band modes, DVB-S2
  • peak EIRP of 53 dBW (2.4m dish and 100W) required
  • RHCP polarisation

EsHail-2 Operating Frequencies

Credits: Amsat-DL

Lonestar-2 Launched

Lonestar-2 (AggieSAT-4 and BEVO-2) Launched from the International Space Station.

AggieSAT-4-Launched-29012016

AggieSAT-4-after-launch

Source: Tim Peak on Flickr

Is was only at the fifth pass that I could receive signals from AggieSAT-4 on 436.250 MHz. Data is send with 9600 baud FSK and decoded with the help of UZ7HO HS sound-modem software.

AggieSAT4-TLM-RX

   1 > C0 00 57 48 32 58 47 4E 6C 09 00 00 24 0E D8 0E DB DC 00 DB 
  21 > DC 00 02 00 03 00 6A 02 02 00 01 00 02 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 
  41 > 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 
  61 > 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 
  81 > 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 08 20 80 3A 00 00 00 00 00 00 
 101 > DB DC 7F 00 00 DB DC 7F 00 00 DB DC 7F 37 0D 01 07 13 00 00 
 121 > 00 68 68 68 68 DE 45 C0 
 WH2XGN

At the moment if you want to receive AggieSAT-4, you can use the TLE data from ISS. The coming days a NORAD ID will be announced and this object will get his own TLE data.

0 LONESTAR
1 41313U 98067HP  16030.33672022 -.00000484  00000-0  00000+0 0  9993
2 41313  51.6476  30.4721 0005403  89.0857 271.0404 15.54324811    90

More information on AggieSAT-4 and the Texas A&M University can be found at the following URL: AggieSAT Lab