Vandenberg Falcon 9 Launch

DANDE and CUSat signals received by Dmitry Pashkov UB4UAD

DANDE and CUSat signals received by Dmitry Pashkov UB4UAD

Two satellites, DANDE and CUSat, carrying amateur radio payloads were launched on Sunday, September 29.

Engineers with DANDE nano-satellite prior to shipping - Image credit University of Colorado Boulder

Engineers with DANDE nano-satellite prior to shipping – Image credit University of Colorado Boulder

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base marks several firsts for the commercial space transportation company, including the maiden launch of an upgraded version of the Falcon 9 rocket with stretched fuel tanks, more powerful engines and a 5.2-meter payload fairing to enshroud satellites.

It is also the first SpaceX mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base, a launch site on California’s Central Coast, where engineers modified an existing facility used by the U.S. Air Force Titan 4 rocket to be the West Coast home of the Falcon 9.

Canada’s Cassiope space weather research and communications demonstration satellite is riding the Falcon 9 rocket into an elliptical near-polar orbit at an altitude of between 325 km and 1500 km. Secondary passengers aboard include POPACS, DANDE and CUSat.

POPACS satellites - Image credit POPACS consortium

POPACS satellites – Image credit POPACS consortium


The second P in POPACS (Polar Orbiting Passive Atmospheric Calibration Spheres) stands for Passive, meaning that the three spheres do not carry radios on board. They are simple, polished ten-cm-diameter hollow Aluminum spheres, weighing 1kg, 1.5 kg and 2 kg, respectively, that will be radar tracked by the Space Surveillance Network of the U.S. Strategic Command and optically tracked by an international network of students with Go To telescopes.

The purpose of the mission is to measure the way in which the total density of Earth’s upper atmosphere above 325 km varies in response to solar stimuli during the descending phase of Solar Cycle 24 and all of Solar Cycle 25.  The spheres’ expected lifetimes, after deployment into the initial 325 km x 1500 km 80 degree orbit that they will hopefully soon share with DANDE and CUSat, are 10, 12.5 and 15 years, depending, of course on solar activity.

DANDE nano-satellite prior to packaging - Image credit Bruce Davis

DANDE nano-satellite prior to packaging – Image credit Bruce Davis


DANDE stands for “Drag and Atmospheric Neutral Density Explorer.” Measuring drag and neutral particles in the lower atmosphere between 325-400 kilometers, DANDE will be measuring real time density, quantifying variations in altitude and over time, as well as providing in-situ model calibration data. The satellite is a low-cost density, wind, and composition measuring instruments that will provide data for the calibration and validation of operational models and improve our understanding of the thermosphere. Weighing approximately 45 kg, DANDE is classified as a nano-satellite that is about 18 inches in diameter.

The Colorado Space Grant Consortium (COSGC) has housed the project for approximately 7 years, in which about 150 students have been a part of the project through initial concept and design, to the current team of mission operators. There are two instruments on board which allow DANDE to make in-situ measurements rather than being passive or only carrying accelerometers. The subsystem ACC (Accelerometers) contains 6 accelerometer heads arranged in a circle which were built in-house. The NMS subsystem (Neutral Mass Spectrometer) also known as Wind and Temperature Spectrometer will survey the variety and quantity of numerous neutral particles in the Thermosphere. This data will be particularly interesting during periods of high
solar activity do to atmospheric effects seen at these times in the polar regions of Earth.

DANDE Telemetry System Information:
Beacon Downlink Frequency: 436.75 MHz FM
Callsign: dandecosgc
Data Rate: 9600 baud
Modulation: FSK
Transmit Interval: every 15 seconds
RF Power Output: 0.75 W
Antenna Polarization: linear

DANDE Beacon Portal
Bruce Davis Project Dande Blog

CUSat - Image credit Cornell University

CUSat – Image credit Cornell University


CUSat is a multi-year effort to design, build, and launch an autonomous in-orbit inspection satellite system. The satellite will allow us test the accuracy and viability of the carrier-phase differential GPS (CDGPS) algorithm. We hope to prove the algorithm accurate to less than 10 cm  by comparing the CDGPS navigation solution to the known distance between GPS antennas. CUSat will use this relative GPS information to help determine and control its attitude. This is the first step towards having a multi-satellite system use the CDGPS algorithm to aid in autonomous inspection. CUSat is the winner of the University Nanosat-4 Program which aims to educate the future aerospace workforce and develop new space technologies.

CUSat Telemetry Information:
Beacon Downlink Frequency: 437.405 MHz FM
Callsign: BOTTOM
Data Rate: 1200 baud
Modulation: AFSK
Transmit Interval: every 1 minute
RF Power Output: 2.2 W
Antenna Polarization: circular

CUSat docs
CUSat Pulse Plasma Thruster Satellites Video

Press Kit released by SpaceX

Dmitry Pashkov UB4UAD website

Falcon 9 Explosion – Update

[Thanks to ANS, Miranda Link, SpaceFlightNow and Mineo Wakita JE9PEL for the above information]

Inflatable Antenna Could Give CubeSats Greater Reach

CubeSat equipped with an inflated antenna, in a NASA radiation chamber - Image credit Alessandra Babuscia

CubeSat equipped with an inflated antenna, in a NASA radiation chamber – Image credit Alessandra Babuscia

MIT report researchers led by Alessandra Babuscia have developed a new design of antenna for small satellites known as CubeSats.

Professor Sara Seager KB1WTW - Image credit MIT

Professor Sara Seager KB1WTW – Image credit MIT

Due the their small size CubeSats have been restricted to small monopole or dipole antennas. Such low gain omni-directional antennas have restricted CubeSats to Low Earth Orbits (LEO) using lower data rates than would be possible with a large dish antenna.

The MIT team, led by Alessandra Babuscia, is part of the research group of radio amateur Professor Sara Seager KB1WTW and also includes graduate students Mary Knapp KB1WUA, Benjamin Corbin, and Mark Van de Loo from MIT, and Rebecca Jensen-Clem from the California Institute of Technology.

The new inflatable antenna developed by Alessandra Babuscia and her team may significantly increase the communication range of these small satellites, enabling them to travel much farther in the solar system: The team has built and tested an inflatable antenna that can fold into a compact space and inflate when in orbit.

It is claimed the distance that can be covered by a satellite with an inflatable antenna is seven times farther than that of existing CubeSat communications.

Alessandra Babuscia - Image Credit MIT

Alessandra Babuscia – Image Credit MIT

“With this antenna you could transmit from the moon, and even farther than that,” says Alessandra Babuscia, who led the research as a postdoc at MIT. “This antenna is one of the cheapest and most economical solutions to the problem of communications.”

‘Magic’ powder

An inflatable antenna is not a new idea. In fact, previous experiments in space have successfully tested such designs, though mostly for large satellites: To inflate these bulkier antennas, engineers install a system of pressure valves to fill them with air once in space — heavy, cumbersome equipment that would not fit within a CubeSat’s limited real estate.

Babuscia raises another concern: As small satellites are often launched as secondary payloads aboard rockets containing other scientific missions, a satellite loaded with pressure valves may backfire, with explosive consequences, jeopardizing everything on board. This is all the more reason, she says, to find a new inflation mechanism.

Mary Knapp KB1WUA - Image credit Interplanetary Small Satellite Conference

Mary Knapp KB1WUA – Image credit Interplanetary Small Satellite Conference

The team landed on a lighter, safer solution, based on sublimating powder, a chemical compound that transforms from a solid powder to a gas when exposed to low pressure.

“It’s almost like magic,” Babuscia explains. “Once you are in space, the difference in pressure triggers a chemical reaction that makes the powder sublimate from the solid state to the gas state, and that inflates the antenna.”

Testing an inflating idea

Babuscia and her colleagues built two prototype antennas, each a meter wide, out of Mylar; one resembled a cone and the other a cylinder when inflated. They determined an optimal folding configuration for each design, and packed each antenna into a 10-cubic-centimeter space within a CubeSat, along with a few grams of benzoic acid, a type of sublimating powder. The team tested each antenna’s inflation in a vacuum chamber at MIT, lowering the pressure to just above that experienced in space. In response, the powder converted to a gas, inflating both antennas to the desired shape.

Rebecca Jensen-Clem - Image credit Interplanetary Small Satellite Conference

Rebecca Jensen-Clem – Image credit Interplanetary Small Satellite Conference

The group also tested each antenna’s electromagnetic properties — an indication of how well an antenna can transmit data. In radiation simulations of both the conical and cylindrical designs, the researchers observed that the cylindrical antenna performed slightly better, transmitting data 10 times faster, and seven times farther, than existing CubeSat antennas.

An antenna made of thin Mylar, while potentially powerful, can be vulnerable to passing detritus in space. Micrometeroids, for example, can puncture a balloon, causing leaks and affecting an antenna’s performance. But Babuscia says the use of sublimating powder can circumvent the problems caused by micrometeroid impacts. She explains that a sublimating powder will only create as much gas as needed to fully inflate an antenna, leaving residual powder to sublimate later, to compensate for any later leaks or punctures.

MIT student with a CubeSat - Image credit MIT

MIT student with a CubeSat – Image credit MIT

The group tested this theory in a coarse simulation, modeling the inflatable antenna’s behavior with different frequency of impacts to assess how much of an antenna’s surface may be punctured and how much air may leak out without compromising its performance. The researchers found that with the right sublimating powder, the lifetime of a CubeSat’s inflatable antenna may be a few years, even if it is riddled with small holes.

Kar-Ming Cheung, an engineer specializing in space communications operations at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), says the group’s design addresses today’s main limitations in CubeSat communications: size, weight and power.

“A directional antenna has been out of the question for CubeSats,” says Cheung, who was not involved in the research. “An inflatable antenna would enable orders of magnitude improvement in data return. This idea is very promising.”

Babuscia says future tests may involve creating tiny holes in a prototype and inflating it in a vacuum chamber to see how much powder would be required to keep the antenna inflated. She is now continuing to refine the antenna design at JPL.

Students build a 3U CubeSat - Image Credit NASA

Students build a 3U CubeSat – Image Credit NASA

“In the end, what’s going to make the success of CubeSat communications will be a lot of different ideas, and the ability of engineers to find the right solution for each mission,” Babuscia says. “So inflatable antennas could be for a spacecraft going by itself to an asteroid. For another problem, you’d need another solution. But all this research builds a set of options to allow these spacecraft, made directly by universities, to fly in deep space.”

Alessandra Babuscia is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has worked on several satellite projects including CASTOR, ExoplanetSat, Rexis and TerSat.

Source – MIT press release

IARU position on nanosatellites and picosatellites Resolution 757

IARU_LogoDuring a teleconference in mid-May, the IARU Administrative Council authorized the distribution of a paper which sets forth the IARU positions on the agenda items that will be considered during the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2015. The agenda items that impact amateur radio and amateur-satellite services including the IARU position on each of those agenda items have been published in the IARU E Newsletter for May 29, 2013.

Agenda Item 9.1.8 – Regulatory aspects for nanosatellites and picosatellites (Resolution 757 (WRC-12))

Resolution 757 calls for the results of studies of the procedures for notifying space networks that presently apply to nanosatellites and picosatellites to be reported to WRC-15. Because of the possible implications of these studies for the amateur and amateur-satellite services, the IARU is following the progress of these studies attentively. Nanosatellites and picosatellites that are properly licensed in the amateur-satellite service and are operated consistent with the purposes of the amateur and amateur-satellite services as defined in Nos. 1.56 and 1.57 may utilize the provisions of Resolution 642.

Nano and picosatellite (CubeSat) resolution at WRC-12

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Nanosatellite Launch Adapter System

The first Nanosatellite Launch Adapter System, or NLAS has been shipped for integration for a launch expected in late 2013.

Right now, nanosatellites can be deployed only in small numbers by rocket or from the International Space Station. But NLAS, developed by the Ames Research Center, can hold up to 24 cube satellites, opening up opportunities for smaller research projects to access space.

NLAS is expected to be used by NASA, other government agencies, and commercial entities.

Watch Nanosatellite Launcher

Nanosatellite Separation Experiment Using a P-POD Deployment Mechanism

AMSAT-UK_Bevelled_LogoThese video shows CubeSat deployment experiments carried out in a weightless environment on the “Vomit Comet” aircraft by students from the University of Texas.

The team write:

Nanosatellites are becoming increasingly common in the aerospace industry due to their reduced size, small mass, and economical cost. These small satellites will often operate in groups rather than as single satellites, and once they are clear of the carrier, separate from one another.One topic of immense interest is the characterization of the separation dynamics of such satellites.

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FCC Guidance On Obtaining Licenses For Small Satellites

Image of a CubeSat in Space

Image of a CubeSat in Space

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Public Notice to provide guidance concerning FCC licensing of spectrum for use by small satellites, including satellites that fall within the categories of pico-satellites, nano-satellites and cubesats.

The advent of such small satellite designs has brought with it dramatically lower launch costs, enabling a larger range of organizations to directly launch satellites. Institutions such as universities and research organizations that previously found it cost prohibitive to launch their own satellite can now participate in the exploration of space. Many of these participants may be unfamiliar with the spectrum licensing, scheduling and other requirements attendant on satellites. This Public Notice seeks to alert affected parties of these requirements and thus aid small satellite operators in the planning necessary for a successful launch operation.

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IITMSat Satellite Project at AAS-AIAA Spaceflight Mechanics Meeting

Deepti Kannapan 23rd AAS-AIAA Spaceflight Mechanics Meeting 2013-02

Deepti Kannapan at the 23rd AAS-AIAA Spaceflight Mechanics Meeting

The 2013 Space Flight Mechanics Meeting, hosted by the American Astronautical Society (AAS) and co-hosted by American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) took place in Kauai, Hawaii, February 10-14, 2013.

At the meeting Deepti Kannapan presented her paper on a new attitude control algorithm developed as a part of her Dual Degree Project. This algorithm is being implemented in the IIT Madras Student Satellite (IITMSat) that is being developed by students at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras.

IITMSat Primary Mission Objectives:
• To design, fabricate, test and launch a small-satellite (15kg), that demonstrates all features of satellite functioning, and build a ground station for collection of data from the satellite
• To measure the energy spectrum of protons and electrons beneath the inner-Van Allen radiation belt boundary (600-800 km) to aid earthquake prediction studies
• Interpret the data received from the satellite and analyze the effects of solar flares, lightning storms and seismic activity on the radiation belts

23rd AAS-AIAA conference schedule


IITMSat on Facebook

Nanosat Launch Concept

Did you ever wonder how Nanosatellites are being launched ?
Well, Meidad Pariente has edited a video produced by the Aalto-1 team that explains how such a task is performed.

Both the edited and original videos are shown.

Aalto-1 is a student CubeSat project of Aalto University, Finland that plans to operate at VHF-UHF and there will also be an S-band transmitter. Up to 8 watts of power will be available from the Solar panels.

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New Satellite Launch Vehicle To Carry CubeSat Swarm in 2013

Super Strypi – SPARK

2013 should see the first flight of a new satellite launch vehicle.

Super Strypi, also known as SPARK (Space-borne Payload Assist Rocket – Kauai), has been developed by Sandia National Laboratories, the University of Hawaii and Aerojet. The rocket is based on an enlarged version of Sandia’s Strypi sounding rocket.

The all solid fueled vehicle uses a GEM-46 (LEO-46) motor of Delta-2H heritage as first stage. A Orbus-7S (LEO-7) motor acts as second stage and a Star-30BP (Spark-30) or an Orbus-1 (LEO-1) as third stage. It is spin and fin stabilized during fist stage burn and has attitude control for the two upper stages. The low cost rocket will be launched from a rail launcher and can put a payload of 250 kg into a 400 km sun-synchronous orbit.

The Super Strypi vehicle will be launched from a rail-launcher at Barking Sands, Kauai (Pacific Missile Range Facility) towards the end of 2013.

Conceptual representation of a cluster of EDSN satellites illustrating their ability to communicate and share data as a network.  Credit NASA

Super Strypi will be carrying a swarm of CubeSats, the Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN). The CubeSats are an unusual size of 10 by 10 by 15 cm (1.5U) and weigh 2 kg. The EDSN swarm will demonstrate distributed, multipoint space weather measurement and are expected to operate for at least 60 days and have an orbit life-time of up to 4 years.

ORS Project – Super Strypi

Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Project – Super Strypi

NASA – Small Spacecraft Technology Program

Gunter’s Space Page 2013

Winter Issue of OSCAR News

E-members of AMSAT-UK can now download the PDF of the Winter edition of the OSCAR News magazine here. (As well as the earlier 2012 issues)

The paper edition is at the printers and should be posted to members within 2 weeks.

In this issue
• IARU Region 3 Chairman Michael Owen, VK3KI (SK)
• Amateur Radio Satellites – The First 25 Years
• G3CVI column “Haven’t got a callsign?”
• Low Noise Cavity Pre-Amplifier 70 cm EME and satellites by Domenico Marini, i8CVS
• Early Editions of Oscar News
• FUNcube Update
• Currently Active Spacecraft
• Shorts

The AMSAT-UK Membership year lasts for 12 months starting on January 1 each year.


AMSAT-UK FUNcube Mission Patch

AMSAT-UK FUNcube Mission Patch

Membership of AMSAT-UK is open to anyone who has an interest in amateur radio satellites or space activities, including the International Space Station (ISS).

E-members of AMSAT-UK are able to download OSCAR News as a convenient PDF that can be read on laptops, tablets or smartphones anytime, anyplace, anywhere. Join as an E-member at Electronic (PDF) E-membership

There are two rates for the paper edition to cover the extra postage costs:
Rest of the World (Overseas)

See a PDF sample copy of “Oscar News” at

Join AMSAT-UK using PayPal, Debit or Credit card at

E-members can download their copies of OSCAR News from