Is this a cool photo or what? Shown are three student-built Cubesats being deployed
from the end of the International Space Station's (ISS) robotic arm. The shape of
the launch mechanism reminds me of a 3-pin, single row Molex or Amp (like used on
you PC's hard drive) power connector. "The
CubeSat Project is an international
collaboration of over 40 universities, high schools, and private firms developing
picosatellites containing scientific, private, and government payloads. A CubeSat
is a 10 cm cube with a mass of up to 1.33 kg. Developers benefit from the sharing
of information within the community. Resources are available by communicating directly
with other developers and attending CubeSat workshops."
NASA is beginning to receive confirmation 11 small
research satellites, including the first developed by high school students, that
were launched into space Tuesday night from the Virginia coast are operating as
The Cubesats were included as auxiliary payloads aboard a U.S. Air Force Minotaur
1 rocket that lifted off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops
Flight Facility at 8:15 p.m. EST. The Cubesats, NASA's fourth Educational Launch
of Nanosatellite (ELaNa) mission, deployed from their protective cases into Earth's
orbit about 20 minutes after liftoff.
As the miniature satellites come online, the teams responsible for them are beginning
to receive signals. Although it could take several more days for full confirmation,
all of the Cubesats appear to be doing well in their new home in low-Earth orbit.
The teams are responsible for confirming activation and normal operations of the
Three nanosatellites, known as Cubesats, are deployed from a Small
Satellite Orbital Deployer (SSOD) attached to the Kibo laboratory's robotic arm
at 7:10 a.m. (EST) on Nov. 19, 2013. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut
Koichi Wakata, Expedition 38 flight engineer, monitored the satellite deployment
while operating the Japanese robotic arm from inside Kibo. The Cubesats were delivered
to the International Space Station Aug. 9, aboard Japan's fourth H-II Transfer Vehicle,
''Cubesats offer our best and brightest young minds the opportunity to discover
the excitement of space exploration while confronting the tough technology and engineering
challenges surrounding spaceflight," said Leland Melvin, NASA's associate administrator
for education in Washington. "By opening the space frontier to a new generation
of scientists and engineers, we encourage students to pursue careers in science,
technology, engineering and mathematics."
Cubesats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. The cube-shaped
satellites measure about 4 inches on each side, have a volume of about 1 quart and
weigh less than 3 pounds. Cubesat research addresses science, exploration, technology
development, education or space missions.
"The advancements of the CubeSat community are enabling an acceleration of flight-qualified
technology that will ripple through the aerospace industry," said Jason Crusan,
director of NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems Division, which oversees the CubeSat
Launch Initiative. "Our future missions will be standing on the developments the
Cubesat community has enabled."
Cubesats from nine universities, a NASA center and a high school were launched.
The TJ3Sat from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology of Alexandria,
Va., contains a voice synthesizer module that will take written phrases in the form
of code and produce a phonetic voice reading on the satellite's downlink frequencies.
TJ3Sat is the first NASA-sponsored Cubesat developed by high school students.
Also sent into orbit was PhoneSat 2.4, a second-generation smartphone Cubesat
mission sponsored by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. PhoneSat 2.4 will
test the smartphone's capability as communication technology for nanosatellites
and as hardware to manage pointing, taking images and software execution. PhoneSat
2.4 has several improvements over the previous mission, including a two-way radio
to enable command of the satellite from the ground, solar arrays to enable it to
be operational for up to a year, and a system for attitude control.
More than 300 students from the following institutions were involved in preparing
the 11 Cubesats:
Thomas Jefferson High School
Drexel University, Philadelphia, in collaboration with the United States Naval
NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
St. Louis University, St. Louis
University of Alabama, Huntsville, Ala.
University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla.
University of Hawaii, Honolulu
University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky., in collaboration with Morehead State
University, Morehead, Ky.
The University of Louisiana, Lafayette, La.
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M.
Vermont Technical College, Randolph Center, Vt.
The launch also marks the first flight of the Nanosatellite Launch Adapter System
(NLAS), a satellite deployment system built by Ames. NLAS is capable of carrying
approximately 100 pounds of secondary payloads into orbit, and can accommodate various
configurations of Cubesats.
ELaNa missions, conducted under NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative, give students,
teachers and faculty hands-on experience developing flight hardware by providing
access to a low-cost avenue for research. Since its inception in 2010, the CubeSat
Launch Initiative has selected more than 90 Cubesats from primarily educational
and government institutions around the United States. NASA chose these miniature
satellites from respondents to public announcements for the agency's CubeSat Launch
Initiative. NASA has a current call for proposals due Nov. 26.
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