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

ESA – Fly Your Satellite

P-POD IntegrationESA invites European student teams who are building CubeSats with mainly educational objectives to propose their satellite for the new ‘Fly Your Satellite!’ programme.

‘Fly Your Satellite!’ is an exciting new initiative from the ESA Education and Knowledge Management Office. It is focused on CubeSat projects run by university students and builds on the successful ‘CubeSats for the Vega Maiden Flight’ pilot programme, which culminated in 2012 with the launch of seven university student-built CubeSats on board the Vega Maiden Flight. 

In the future, this new initiative is intended to cover the complete development process of a satellite from concept to launch. However, the 2013 edition will be dedicated to teams whose satellite is already at an advanced stage of development and able to complete the Flight Model assembly by June 2013. One, two or three-unit CubeSats are eligible.

The ‘Fly Your Satellite!’ programme envisages three consecutive activity phases, with intermediate reviews that the student teams will have to pass to be accepted into the next phase.

Phase 1: Build Your Satellite

During Phase 1 the CubeSat teams shall complete the integration and functional testing of their CubeSat’s Flight Model in ambient conditions. They shall submit related documentation and data packages to be compiled following ESA guidelines.

At the end of Phase 1, the CubeSats development status and their data package documentation will be reviewed by ESA specialists who will select the teams for Phase 2 (the environmental test campaign).

Phase 2: Test Your Satellite!

CubeSat Clean before integrationA CubeSat team cleaning their CubeSat before integration.

During Phase 2 the selected teams will be supported by ESA during the task of performing environmental tests on their satellites. These will include vibration and thermal-vacuum tests. For this activity, ESA will offer the use of a Thermal Vacuum chamber and a mechanical shaker.

The definition of the launcher and the mission’s environmental requirements are not yet expected to be known by the time of Phase 2. Therefore the environmental tests will be performed against an envelope of generic requirements that will be agreed between the ESA specialists and the CubeSat teams.

During this phase, in which the satellite performances will have to be assessed before and after the test campaign, the teams shall prepare and then submit the so-called Acceptance Data Packages. These shall be compiled following ESA guidelines and shall include the documentation of the test campaign.

At the end of Phase 2, the satellites’ documentation will be reviewed by ESA and the best CubeSat teams will be selected for a launch opportunity – their Ticket to Orbit!.

Phase 3: Ticket to Orbit!

Xatcobeo final assemblyThe ESA Education Office will facilitate the procurement of a launch opportunity that is still to be defined. Therefore, start-time and duration of Phase 3 will depend on the actual launch date.

The CubeSats selected for a Ticket to Orbit! will be launched if and only if the respective teams provide proof of the CubeSat frequency registration with the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and proof of the satellite’s registration on the United Nations (UNOOSA) Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space.

The selected CubeSats will be installed inside CubeSat orbital deployers, and, after a campaign of integrated tests (to be performed against the environmental requirements of the real mission), the flight hardware will be shipped to the launch site for the launch campaign.

Further details can be found at the ESA website via the this URL

[PE0SAT Thanks ESA and PA0DLO for the above information]

ESA Vega Launch Includes 8 Amateur Band Satellites

Vega Artist ImpressionVega is scheduled to launch on February 13, at 1000 UTC with eight student built amateur radio satellites. Internet video streaming of the launch will be available.

The launcher will first deploy the main payload, the LARES the Laser relativity Spacecraft and will then make an additional firing of the final OVUM stage before deploying the secondary cubesat payloads. The planned timing for these deployments, in order of ejection, are as follows:

  • T0+ 4245.30secs 1st PPOD, with XatCobeo, e-st@r, and Goliat.
  • T0+ 4255.30secs 2nd PPOD, with Robusta, MaSat-1 and PW-Sat.
  • T0+ 4265.30secs 3rd PPOD, with UniCubeSat.
  • T0+ 4275.30secs AlmaSat-1.

The Cubesats will not deploy their antennas until 1800 seconds after they leave their PODS. It is not known how soon AlmaSat-1 will start transmitting after deployment.

Vega Launch Cubesat Amateur Band Frequencies

AlmaSat-1 437.465 MHz 1200 bps FSK, 2407.850 MHz
E-St@r 437.445 MHz 1200 bps AFSK
Goliat 437.485 MHz 1200 bps AFSK
MaSat-1 437.345 MHz GFSK 625/1250 bps (demodulator/decoder software), CW
PW-Sat 435.020 MHz FM uplink, 145.990 MHz DSB downlink
Robusta 437.325 MHz 1200 bps FM telemetry (data every 1 min, 20 sec. burst)
UniCubeSat 437.305 MHz 9600 bps FSK
XaTcobeo 437.365 MHz FFSK with AX.25

The university cubesat teams welcome reception reports. All observers are invited to submit reports via amsat-bb and to also join the CubeSat Internet Relay Chat channel to pass on their news and comments in realtime. You will need an IRC client such as the ChatZilla addon for FireFox or mIRC to join the cubesat chat. Connect to the server. Once connected to the server the /join #cubesat command will bring you into the channel. Many users set their chat nickname to “name_callsign”.

[PE0SAT thanks for the above information]