Solar Activity Delays CubeSat Launch

The Sun - Image Credit NASA SOHO

The Sun – Image Credit NASA SOHO

The high radiation level from recent solar eruptions has resulted in a planned launch of amateur radio CubeSats being postponed.

NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility say:

Early on Wednesday, January 8 the Antares launch team decided to scrub the launch attempt due to an unusually high level of space radiation that exceeded by a considerable margin the constraints imposed on the mission to ensure the rocket’s electronic systems are not impacted by a harsh radiation environment.

The solar flux activity that occurred late yesterday afternoon has had the result of increasing the level of radiation beyond what the Antares engineering team was monitoring earlier in the day. Overnight, Orbital engineers who are experts in the field ran numerous models to ensure that all possibilities to preserve the launch were examined. However, due to significantly elevated flux levels, the Antares team decided to postpone the launch to spend the day further examining the potential effects of the space radiation on the rocket’s avionics suite.

During Wednesday, in consultation with NASA and outside experts in the field of “space weather,” Orbital will continue to monitor the levels of space radiation with a goal of setting a new launch date as soon as possible. If we are able to launch on Thursday, the launch targeted launch time would be 1:10 p.m. (EST), with Cygnus arriving at the ISS Sunday morning, January 12.

Antares plans to ship a number of amateur radio CubeSats to the International Space Station (ISS) for later deployment. They include LituanicaSat-1, LitSat-1, ArduSat-2 andUAPSat-1. Also on the launch is the 915 MHz CubeSat SkyCube and twenty eight 3U CubeSats from Planet Labs.