Masat-1 captured the first Hungarian satellite photographs from space

Masat-1, the First Hungarian Satellite made history again when it captured the first satellite space photographs on 8 March 2012 This first photo shows the southern section of the African continent. The next photos were made of Australia and Antarctica, in a quality and quantity unprecedented in the CubeSat realm.

Masat-1 - Flight Model

The Flight Model of Masat-1

The on-board camera of Masat-1 has a mass of about two Euro coins. The maximal resolution is 640×480 pixels. A width of 1 pixel corresponds to a distance of 1 to 10 kilometres on the photos recorded.

The flawless operation of the passive attitude control system made it possible to capture photographs ahead of schedule, but with this passive system only the Southern Hemisphere of the Earth may be targeted by the camera. As the first month of the mission passed, almost every mission objective was fulfilled. The flawless run of the satellite opens a new scientific and technological horizon for experiments which we plan to perform in the coming months.

There is an increasing demand for Eath observation satellites worldwide both from the public and the private sector, as such spacecraft can capture on-demand, high resolution, up to date images of a specific area of the Earth’s surface. The captured images might be used for disaster relief operations,weather forecast services, crop yield estimation and tracking of agricultural operations, civil transport and cartography applications and also defence purposes.

As part of the ESA Education programme, seven CubeSats designed and built by European universities were placed into orbit by Europe’s new Vega launch vehicle on 13th February 2012.
For more information please visit ESA’s Education CubeSat pages.

Vega rocket ready for first flight

 

Vega VV01 liftoff
Flight VV01

Vega rocket ready for first flight

19 January 2012
Final checkout of Europe’s new Vega launcher was completed last Friday, marking another milestone towards its maiden flight from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The first Vega launch campaign began in November with the installation of the P80 first stage on the launch pad. The two solid-propellant second and third stages were added to the vehicle, followed by the AVUM – Attitude & Vernier Upper Module – liquid-propellant fourth stage.  

AVUM pressurisation
AVUM pressurisation

All four stages have undergone final acceptance, including the testing of the avionics, guidance, telemetry, propulsion, separation pyrotechnics and safety systems.These steps culminated on 13 January with Vega’s ‘synthesis control checks’, where all systems were put into launch mode for the vehicle’s final acceptance. This included pressurising the AVUM propulsion systems that actuate the thruster valves.

The rocket’s elements were switched on from the control bench to simulate the launch countdown. The onboard software then took over and simulated the different stages of a flight. The interfaces between the vehicle and the control bench were also tested.

The test review confirmed that everything ran as expected and that the launcher is ready for flight.

AVUM in mobile gantry
AVUM

What’s next?

The ‘upper composite’ – the fairing and payload – will be integrated, followed by final checkout of the fully assembled launcher and the countdown rehearsal.

The first launch, VV01, is targeted for 9 February. It will carry nine satellites into orbit: the Italian space agency’s LARES and ALMASat-1, together with seven CubeSats from European universities.

This mission aims to qualify the Vega launch system, including the vehicle, its launch infrastructure and operations, from the launch campaign to payload separation and disposal of the upper module.

Artist's impression of Vega
Vehicle VV01

A flexible system

Vega is designed to cope with a wide range of missions and payload configurations in order to respond to different market opportunities and provide great flexibility.

In particular, it offers configurations able to handle payloads ranging from a single satellite up to one main satellite plus six microsatellites.

Vega is compatible with payload masses ranging from 300 kg to 2500 kg, depending on the type and altitude of the orbit required by the customers. The benchmark is for 1500 kg into a 700 km-altitude polar orbit.

More information on Vega and updates are now available on the new launch website here.

Launch date fixed for Esa’s Vega rocket

Europe has named Thursday 9 February as the day it intends to launch its new Vega rocket for the very first time.Vega

The 30m-tall vehicle has been developed to take payloads up to 1.5 tonnes into a polar orbit, and will fly from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana.

The project has been led by Italian industry and is years behind on its original schedule.

But European Space Agency Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain, said he would not force the pace.

“Today, the target date is 9 February, but it’s a target,” he told BBC News.

“I shall never say this is the definitive launch date because it is a maiden flight, and with a maiden flight I shall take no risk. There will be no compromise on any question which could still be open on 9 February.”

The caution is well advised. Statistics show that some two-thirds of the rockets introduced in the past 20 years have had an unsuccessful first outing.

It is for this reason that the satellites carried on the “qualification” flight have been given a free ride.

Biannual operations

Vega is a four-stage rocket. Its first three segments burn a solid fuel; its fourth and final stage uses liquid propellants, and can be stopped and restarted several times to get a spacecraft into just the right orbit.

Esa expects an operational Vega to be launching about twice a year, carrying mostly small scientific and government satellites.

If the rocket should need to delay from 9 February to deal with technical issues, it will only be given a short window to resolve the problems before being asked to stand down for several weeks.

Vega’s big “brother” at Kourou, the Ariane 5 rocket, is booked to launch Europe’s third ATV cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS) on 9 March, and this mission will take precedence if there is a conflict.

The frequent comings and goings at the orbiting platform require a carefully co-ordinated traffic schedule, and this will not be disrupted for an unrelated, experimental rocket flight.

“I have to respect my commitments to my International Space Station partners,” Mr Dordain explained.

“It’s clear that if we are arriving in a situation where the launch of Vega starts to interfere with the date of the launch of ATV 3, I will choose to switch and go for ATV first and Vega next.”

Long-term planning

Vega is just the beginning of what is expected to be a busy year for Esa.

Metop-BMetop-B will launch in May/June

Other highlights include the launch of two major weather satellites, Meteosat 10 and Metop-B, and a trio of craft called Swarm that will measure the Earth’s magnetism in unprecedented detail.

Policy-wise, 2012 will also be a significant year because it will see the first Ministerial Council since 2008. This gathering of the member states, to take place in Italy in November, will set programmes and budgets for the next three to five years.

Key decisions will need to be made on the next evolution of Ariane, on funding for Esa’s participation in the ISS project, and on the development of a next-generation of polar orbiting weather satellites to succeed the Metop series.

Nations are likely to go to the meeting in a much weaker position economically than they did in 2008.

Nonetheless, Mr Dordain expressed satisfaction with Esa’s current budget profile.

The agency will have essentially a flat income this year of 4.02bn euros (£3.32bn), when all contributions, including from the EU, are taken into account).

“I am trying to implement the Esa programmes with just the payments that are necessary – less and less margin, more and more efficiency, and more and more reduction of internal costs,” Mr Dordain said. “This is a daily challenge, but on the other hand it makes life interesting.”

Germany and France continue to be the lead contributors to Esa, although it is noteworthy that the former’s agency contribution now exceeds that of the latter (750m euros from Germany versus 717m euros from France). Italy (350m euros) and the UK (260m euros/£215m) make up the rest of the “big four”.

Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk

Launch date fixed for Esa's Vega rocket

Europe has named Thursday 9 February as the day it intends to launch its new Vega rocket for the very first time.Vega

The 30m-tall vehicle has been developed to take payloads up to 1.5 tonnes into a polar orbit, and will fly from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana.

The project has been led by Italian industry and is years behind on its original schedule.

But European Space Agency Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain, said he would not force the pace.

“Today, the target date is 9 February, but it’s a target,” he told BBC News.

“I shall never say this is the definitive launch date because it is a maiden flight, and with a maiden flight I shall take no risk. There will be no compromise on any question which could still be open on 9 February.”

The caution is well advised. Statistics show that some two-thirds of the rockets introduced in the past 20 years have had an unsuccessful first outing.

It is for this reason that the satellites carried on the “qualification” flight have been given a free ride.

Biannual operations

Vega is a four-stage rocket. Its first three segments burn a solid fuel; its fourth and final stage uses liquid propellants, and can be stopped and restarted several times to get a spacecraft into just the right orbit.

Esa expects an operational Vega to be launching about twice a year, carrying mostly small scientific and government satellites.

If the rocket should need to delay from 9 February to deal with technical issues, it will only be given a short window to resolve the problems before being asked to stand down for several weeks.

Vega’s big “brother” at Kourou, the Ariane 5 rocket, is booked to launch Europe’s third ATV cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS) on 9 March, and this mission will take precedence if there is a conflict.

The frequent comings and goings at the orbiting platform require a carefully co-ordinated traffic schedule, and this will not be disrupted for an unrelated, experimental rocket flight.

“I have to respect my commitments to my International Space Station partners,” Mr Dordain explained.

“It’s clear that if we are arriving in a situation where the launch of Vega starts to interfere with the date of the launch of ATV 3, I will choose to switch and go for ATV first and Vega next.”

Long-term planning

Vega is just the beginning of what is expected to be a busy year for Esa.

Metop-BMetop-B will launch in May/June

Other highlights include the launch of two major weather satellites, Meteosat 10 and Metop-B, and a trio of craft called Swarm that will measure the Earth’s magnetism in unprecedented detail.

Policy-wise, 2012 will also be a significant year because it will see the first Ministerial Council since 2008. This gathering of the member states, to take place in Italy in November, will set programmes and budgets for the next three to five years.

Key decisions will need to be made on the next evolution of Ariane, on funding for Esa’s participation in the ISS project, and on the development of a next-generation of polar orbiting weather satellites to succeed the Metop series.

Nations are likely to go to the meeting in a much weaker position economically than they did in 2008.

Nonetheless, Mr Dordain expressed satisfaction with Esa’s current budget profile.

The agency will have essentially a flat income this year of 4.02bn euros (£3.32bn), when all contributions, including from the EU, are taken into account).

“I am trying to implement the Esa programmes with just the payments that are necessary – less and less margin, more and more efficiency, and more and more reduction of internal costs,” Mr Dordain said. “This is a daily challenge, but on the other hand it makes life interesting.”

Germany and France continue to be the lead contributors to Esa, although it is noteworthy that the former’s agency contribution now exceeds that of the latter (750m euros from Germany versus 717m euros from France). Italy (350m euros) and the UK (260m euros/£215m) make up the rest of the “big four”.

Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk

6th Form Students Space Project

The Times newspaper reports on an experiment developed by 6th form students in Canterbury that will soon fly in space and involve students not just in the UK but also Uganda.

The article appeared in The Times 2 supplement for August 24 and describes how 6th form co-ed students at the Simon Langton Grammar school, led by Head of Pyshics, Dr. Becky Parker are developing a Cosmic Radiation experiment – LUCID – that will be part of the TechDemoSat-1 satellite. It is based around a Cosmic Ray detector chip from CERN and the school raised £60,000 to fund the experiment.

The school say that Dr Obote College in Uganda will soon be working with one of the LUCID cosmic ray detectors and Ugandan students will play an equal part with Langton students in collecting and analysing data on cosmic ray activity as part of an international experiment.

As part of the project Dr. Becky Parker is looking for money to install LUCID equipment in schools across the Britsh Isles and Europe providing ground-based data in a way that will involve hundreds of thousands of students.

TechDemoSat-1 (TDS-1) http://www.sstl.co.uk/getattachment/Current-Projects/TechDemoSat-info-doc-190411.pdf

The Langton Star Centre http://www.thelangtonstarcentre.org/

Simon Langton – Dr Obote College in Uganda http://www.thelangton.org.uk/index.php/dr-obote

The Times ‘Sixth formers take on Nasa’ by Tom Whipple (Paywall)
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/life/article3143312.ece