The QB50 project, funded by the European Commission, deals with the design and the launch of a network of 50 miniaturized satellites to study the lower layers of the thermosphere / ionosphere. This project receives as from 15th of January 2012 financial support from the FP 7 EC program and is run by an international consortium under the leadership of the von Karman Institute near Brussels.
These satellites called “CubeSats”, completely functional, are built by universities for an educational purpose. All 50 CubeSats will be launched out of Murmansk, situated in the Northern Russia, into a circular orbit at 320 km altitude, inclination 79° around the Earth. Due to atmospheric drag, the orbits will decay and progressively lower layers of the thermosphere / ionosphere will be then explored. A network of standard satellites for in-situ measurements can only be realized by using very low-cost satellites, and CubeSats are the only realistic option.
This project includes universities in 30 European countries and universities in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Peru, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, USA and Vietnam. For many of these countries, CubeSats will be their first satellite in orbit and a matter of national prestige.
The von Karman institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKI) is the lead institute of this consortium and manages this international project which involves over 500 researchers from 50 countries. Jean Muylaert, Director of the Institute and responsible for the project, stresses that it will be the first time that a dedicated CubeSat space mission will be performed for unique atmospheric science and also to demonstrate new in-orbit qualification methods.
http://www.QB50.eu for the Qb50 project
http://www.cubesatsymposium.eu for the 4th European CubeSat Symposium