After Record-Setting CubeSat Launch, Many Are Already Online
November 20, 2013

After Record-Setting CubeSat Launch, Many Are Already Online

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

NASA said that it has received confirmation from 11 small CubeSat research satellites that were part of the record-setting launch last night (Nov 19).

During the nighttime lift-off, 29 satellites were launched on board an Orbital Sciences’ Minotaur 1 rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. There were 29 CubeSats in the mission’s payload, including one that was developed by high school students.

''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," Leland Melvin, NASA's associate administrator for education in Washington, said in a statement. "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."

NASA said it could take several more days for full confirmation on the rest of the CubeSats, but so far all of them appear to be doing well in low-Earth orbit. These nano satellites measure about 4-inches on each side, weigh about three pounds apiece, and have a volume of about 1 quart. CubeSat researchers help to address issues related to science, exploration, technology development, education and space missions.

"The advancements of the cubesat community are enabling an acceleration of flight-qualified technology that will ripple through the aerospace industry,"stated 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."

The TJ3Sat developed by students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology of Alexandria, Virginia contains a voice synthesizer module that will take written phrases in the form of code and produce phonetic voice reading on the satellite’s downlink frequencies. This is the first satellite developed and put into orbit by high school students.

The PhoneSat 2.4 was also included in the launch payload. This is a second-generation smartphone cubesat mission aimed at testing a smartphone’s capability in communication technology for nano satellites and taking images. The PhoneSat 2.4 has several improvements over the previous mission, including 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.

NASA said that over 300 students from different educational institutions were involved in preparing the 11 CubeSats, including: Drexel University, Philadelphia, in collaboration with the United States Naval Academy; 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, NM; and Vermont Technical College, Randolph Center, VT.

Last night’s launch also marks the first flight of the Nanosatellite Launch Adapter System (NLAS), which is a new satellite deployment system capable of carrying about 100 pounds of secondary payloads into orbit.