by Staff Writers
Morehead UK (SPX) Aug 23, 2011
A Russian Dnepr rocket roared out of a silo launcher into space carrying a satellite with hardware designed and built at Morehead State University. The rocket launched from Yasny, Russia, on the Kazakhstan border, successfully carried an Italian microsatellite into space. The Educational Satellite, called EduSat, was built by the University of Rome with components by MSU and Kentucky Space.
MSU's Space Science Center (SSC) and Kentucky Space collaborated with the University of Rome' Sapienza Aerospace Engineering School on a series of student-driven educational satellite projects. The goal was for students to develop, build and fly a series of four satellites (EduSat, UNISAT-5, UNISAT-6, and UNISAT-7). These satellites were built in Rome and in Morehead and controlled from MSU by students using the big dish antenna and by Italian students using satellite ground assets in Europe.
"The launch was flawless and orbit insertion occurring 960 seconds after liftoff has been successfully confirmed. All seven satellites were successfully deployed. Components of the Italian microsatellite EduSat were designed and built by our students," said Dr. Ben Malphrus, chair of the Department of Earth and Space Sciences and director of the Space Science Center.
"For the first time ever hardware built in Kentucky is orbiting planet Earth."
The first in the series of missions, EduSat is an innovative Microsatellite weighing about 24 pounds and approximately the size of a small microwave oven. A Dnepr Rocket, a refurbished intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that previously contained nuclear warheads, was modified by a Russian-Ukranian company, Kosmotras LLC, to carry commercial payloads, or satellites that need a ride to Earth's orbit.
EduSat is a secondary payload on this flight that includes NigeriaSat-2, which will become part of the international Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) project, Sich-2 satellite and BPA-2, both satellites belonging to the State Space Agency of Ukraine, RASAT owned by the Space Research Technology Institute of Turkey, and two additional U.S.-built satellites--Aprizesat-5 and Aprizesat-6, built by SpaceQuest, a microsatellite company in Fairfax, Va. Jeff Kruth, SSC staff RF and electrical engineer, worked with SpaceQuest on its first series of microsatellites before coming to MSU in 2006.
During its first 30-days on orbit, EduSat will test an orbital deployer designed to release femto-class satellites. While the femtosats will not be released on the first mission, the deployment system that will ultimately deploy them will be tested.
A follow-on mission in 2012 (UNISAT-5) will deploy four femto-class satellites (with masses of under one pound each), two of which were developed by Morehead State University students and faculty. The femtosatellites (invented by MSU's Bob Twiggs), called PocketQubs, will be ejected from the UNISAT-5 "mothership" at apogee.
MSU has built two of the PocketQubs in house, with the others built by university students in the U.S. and Europe. These femtosats, among the smallest satellites ever launched, will have earth and space monitoring sensors and test micro/nano technology for space applications. The EduSat mission is a precursor mission that will lead the way to flying the PocketQubs by flight-testing the orbital deployer that will launch the PocketQubs from the larger satellite.
The orbital deployers, called the MRFODs-Morehead-Roma Femtosatellite Orbital Deployers-were designed and built by undergraduate students in the MSU space science program under the direction of Kevin Brown, assistant professor of space science. The orbital deployer was conceived to provide a reliable and adaptable deployment system for the recently developed PocketQub standard as well as other femto-class satellite form factors. To accelerate prototyping of the MRFODs, the 3D printer at the SSC was used. 3-D printing is an additive manufacturing, rapid prototyping technology that greatly facilitates the engineering design process.
Printed prototype models provide a quick turnaround time and a cost effective alternative to developing prototypes from traditional materials and with costly machinging processes. The 3D printed models have been invaluable in development and testing; including: functionality and fit-checks. Using this technique, the MRFOD systems were produced in less than nine months; using traditional manufacturing processes for prototyping, the engineering models would have taken significantly longer to produce and the cost would have been greater.
The PocketQub is a new satellite standard that was proposed in 2009 by Professor Robert Twiggs for a satellite even smaller than the CubeSat. PocketQubs are 5 cm cubes and can literally fit in a pocket. The PocketQub leverages the CubeSat standard and also leverages the revolution in the miniaturization of electronics. PocketQubs will ultimately have a wide range of applications including: Network Nodes, Sensor Systems, Satellite Constellations, Inexpensive, Redundant, and Spatially Organized Earth Remote Sensing Platforms.
Students at the SSC served as the principle engineers in the development of two of the first PocketQubs (Eagle-1 and Eagle-2) and the MRFOD designed to deploy the femtosats from Edusat (the mother ship). Eagle-1 and 2 will test deployable de-orbit systems and establish flight heritage for femtosat systems including power systems and transceivers. The primary payloads on EduSat are environmental sensors dedicated to secondary education research.
The series of educational and research space missions is an on-going project for designing, building and launching a student-built satellite, and testing prototype technologies including extremely small space systems. The missions provide students with opportunities to engage in research and at the same time push the envelope of micro-nano technologies for space applications.
Dr. Malphrus, Brown, and undergraduate students Nathan Fite and Tyler Rose traveled to Italy for the integration activities. Dr. Malphrus was in Russia for the launch.
A group of students including Clay Graves, Jonathan Fitzpatrick, Ben Cahall, Caleb Grimes, and Margaret Powell will serve as the ground operations team for launch and early operations of the satellite from the MSU Mission Operations Center. Brown is the Engineering Team Lead on the project and Chantal Cappalletti from the University of Rome, is the principle investigator. The project was funded by Kentucky Space and the Morehead State University Center for Regional Engagement.
Microsat News and Nanosat News at SpaceMart.com
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