QB50 CubeSat Launch Contract Signed

First two stages of Cyclone-4 - Image credit Alcantara Cyclone Space

First two stages of Cyclone-4 – Image credit Alcantara Cyclone Space

The 7th QB50 workshop opened on Tuesday with the announcement that on Monday, January 27, 2014, the Von Karman Institute of Belgium signed the launch contract with Alcantara Cyclone Space for the launch of the QB50 constellation of 50 2U CubeSats into a 350 km low earth orbit for scientific research. The QB50 project is funded via the FP7 programme of the European Commission.

Launching Facility - Image credit Alcantara Cyclone Space

Launching Facility – Image Alcantara Cyclone Space

Alcantara Cyclone Space is a joint venture between the governments of Ukraine and Brazil for the development of the Cyclone 4 launch vehicle and launch site facilities in Brazil. The Alcantara launch site is located near the Atlantic coast just 2.3 degrees south of the equator.

Cyclone 4 is the successor to the previous Ukrainian Cyclone (Tsyklon) launch vehicles which have a record of more than 200 successful launches since 1969. The three stage rocket has a launch mass of 198 tonnes and a maximum payload of 5.685 tonnes to a 500 km Equatorial Orbit. To a Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO) at 400 km altitude the maximum payload will be 3.910 tonnes. The launch vehicle will also have a capability to deliver 1.600 tonnes to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). The first and second stages are from existing designs and the third stage is new and has enhanced performance with a 4 metre diameter fairing.

The precise QB50 launch date is still to be confirmed but the launch window is defined as being between December 2015 and November 2016.

Cyclone-4 - Image credit Alcantara Cyclone Space

Cyclone-4 – Image Alcantara Cyclone Space

In July 2013 the QB50 project team signed a Memorandum of Understanding with AMSAT-UK, AMSAT-Francophone, and AMSAT-NL to enable amateur radio payloads to fly on two QB50 precursor spacecraft in advance of the main launch. These are expected to be launched in April or May this year to a 600 km Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO) on a Dnepr launch vehicle from Dombarovsky near Yasny. One will carry a FUNcube based U/V linear transponder from AMSAT-NL and AMSAT-UK and the other will be a U/V FM transponder with AX25 telemetry from AMSAT-Francophone.

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Alcantara Cyclone Space http://www.alcantaracyclonespace.com/