UKube-1 is Taking Shape

UKube-1, the programme to launch the UK Space Agency’s first Cubesat mission, has reached an important milestone. Two payloads have now undergone pre-integration testing at Clyde Space’s facilities in Glasgow.

UKube-1. Credit: Clyde Space.

UKube-1. Credit: Clyde Space.

Miniature satellite UKube-1, is a collaboration between the UK Space Agency, industry and academia. Open University payload C3D and University of Bath payload TOPCAT were the first of the four payloads selected to be tested. These workshops provided the first opportunity to carry out physical and functional testing between the protoflight payloadsand platform subsystems.C3D imager. Credit: Clyde Space/Open University. (JPG, 2.7 Mb) 

The tests confirmed physical, electrical and operational interfaces between the subsystems. The tests represent the successful handover to flight integration and delivery from the interface emulator (supplied to payload teams by Clyde Space at the start of the program to facilitate rapid parallel development of subsystems).

C3D is a small imager which will take pictures of the earth and investigate radiation damage effects in space. It uses new sensor technology developed for space conditions.

TOPCAT (Topside Ionosphere Computer Assisted Tomography) will measure space weather conditions to inform users of the Global Positioning System (GPS) users using a dual-frequency GPS receiver designed especially for use in space.

With the remaining payloads due to be tested over the coming few weeks, the program continues confidently towards full integration in July.

UKube-1 will also take an educational subsystem called FUNcube, developed by the voluntary organisation AMSAT-UK, to encourage young people to learn about radio, space, physics and electronics. It contains a 1200 bps BPSK telemetry beacon and a 435/145 MHz linear transponder.

UKube-1 on BBC TV

UKube-1 to launch in 2013

Glasgow school wins CanSat launch competition

The UK’s Alpha team from Bearsden Academy in Glasgow were awarded first place in the second European CanSat Competition. 14 secondary school teams, from different ESA member states, participated in the finals of the competition at the Andøya Rocket Range in Norway.

The first prize was awarded to team Alpha, from the UK. Credits: ESA / J Makinen. (JPG, 61 Kb) CanSats are miniature simulation satellites the size of a soda can. The students had to build their own space experiments, fitting all the major subsystems including radio communications on 433/434 MHz and power into just 350ml.

The tiny CanSats were designed to separate from their rocket and conduct their missions as they descended on parachutes to the ground for recovery by the teams. They were launched in pairs from seven small Intruder rockets up to an altitude of about 1km.

Setting up an Intruder rocket for launch. Credits: ESA / J Makinen. (JPG, 68 Kb) Despite very strong winds, all of the CanSats were successfully recovered, with the exception of the Spanish one, which failed to communicate with the ground station.

The UK team received good telemetry data on 434.25 MHz, but were a little disappointed that their miniature rover deployed earlier than planned. The other teams, from Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Austria, Czech Republic, Norway, Romania, Italian, Irish, Greek, Portugese had varying degrees of success.

Once they analysed the results of their missions, the teams were judged by a board composed of technical experts from space agencies and industry. Following the UK team in second place was the Icaromenippus 3D team from the 3rd General Lyceum of Mytilini, Strati Myrivili, Greece, with the Portuguese Azorean Shearwater team from EBS Santa Maria, Vila do Porto in the Azores in third place.

“The standard of the projects was really high and the judges were very impressed by the professional attitude of the students,” said Helen Page, the ESA CanSat Project Coordinator. “They learned an enormous amount about space science, engineering and technology, as well as developing practical skills and experiencing the excitement of a launch campaign at a world-class rocket range.”

Students from the Norwegian team Navican testing their CanSat's parachute. Credits: ESA / J Makinen. (JPG, 72 Kb) The 2012 European CanSat competition was organised by ESA’s Education Office in collaboration with the Norwegian Centre for Space-related Education (NAROM). For more details about the teams involved visit the ESA website.

The Scottish CanSat Competition was organised using the STEM Ambassador Network, a list of the Scottish schools involved and 70cm frequencies is at

Scottish CanSat Facebook

CanSat website

50 years of the UK in space

This is a year of momentous milestones in the life of Britain, ranging from Charles Dickens’ bicentenary to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Adding further significance to 2012 is the UK space industry, which has a golden anniversary to mark: the launch of the nation’s first satellite, Ariel-1, on April 26th 1962.
In the news
Built by NASA in collaboration with a team of British academics, Ariel-1 was the world’s first international satellite, and constituted the foundation of the UK space sector – now annually worth £7.5 billion to the UK economy, and supportive of some 70,000 jobs across a variety of the nation’s industries.
To mark this special anniversary, the UK Space Agency is presenting a two-day space symposium on the 26th and 27th of April, at the home of their active co-hosts, the Science Museum. Now a year old, the UKSA has much to be enthusiastic about; and the symposium will commemorate past achievements, and explore the future direction of Britain’s thriving space industry – with contributions from some of the leading players in the sector today.

The UK Space Agency was founded to provide strategic support to the sector, while making significant investments through its 230m civil space budget. Almost 90 per cent of the agency’s budget currently goes to the European Space Agency, for collaborative pan-European space projects. This strategy is helping to secure Britain’s role as a key player in the development of Europe’s space going future.

SSTL is a case in point; with its current role in the European Commission’s European GNSS program. The company will assemble eight batches of satellite navigational payloads, on top of the 14 it is already building. In addition, the UK government recently announced that it would invest in the development of NovaSAR, SSTL’s small radar satellite. The space agency’s work signifies government recognition of the groundbreaking work in space technology by UK universities, research centres, and companies like SSTL.


SSTL is itself of historical significance, as the creator of the first ‘talking satellite’, UoSAT-1 in 1981. Their current work in nanosatellite and microsatellite technology, is a far cry from the ancestral Ariel-1, which had the aesthetics of a 1950’s ‘sci-fi’ fantasy space craft: multiple, sphere-like radio antennas protruding from a cylindrical body; multiple solar arrays; inertia booms to control the craft’s spin, and a 100-minute tape to store a single orbit’s worth of data.

Perhaps the most dramatic contrast in SSTL’s current work, to the ‘little-green-man’ craft that was Ariel-1, is its Smartphone satellite STRaND-1. This unique nanosatellite is designed around a Google Nexus One, Android Smartphone. In a playful nod to classic science-fictions’ dream of a space-going future, is the inclusion of an App on the phone that tests out the film Alien’s infamous slogan: ‘In space no-one can hear you scream’.

Providing SSTL’s contribution to the UK Space Agency’s symposium, will be Shaun Kenyon, lead System Engineer on the aforementioned, nanosatellite STRaND-1. On the 26th, 
he will discuss the importance of flagship projects and small satellites to UK space technology. Shaun’s insights will help to put in context the retrospective significance of Ariel-1, as he expounds his belief in the importance of satellite technology and low cost access to space for commercial endeavours.

Robin Wolstenholme

PY4ZBZ captures stunning image from Noaa 15 using AMSAT-UK FUNcube Dongle.

Roland (PY4ZBZ) used an AMSAT-UK FUNcube Dongle VHF/UHF software defined radio to capture this stunning image from Noaa 15

Noaa 15 Image

“NOAA-15 vertical pass over my QTH
Sete Lagoas GH70un Brasil
Received with FCD+DCA antenna+Spectravue”

The FUNcube Dongle was developed as part of the educational outreach for AMSAT-UK FUNcube satellite project. Although it was designed  to enable school students to receive the satellite beacon the wide frequency coverage of 64 – 1700MHz has meant that it can be used for many other applications.

The AMSAT-UK FUNcube Dongle VHF/UHF SDR is available at
It is also sold by Martin Lynch & Sons (ML&S) at

FUNcube Yahoo Group

AMSAT-UK 80 Meter Net recording 8th April 2012

The AMSAT-UK net is held every Sunday morning at 10am local time on a nominal frequency of 3.780 MHz. Due to interference the net may move either side of that frequency so tune around. Newcomers are most welcome to call-in.

Latest AMSAT-UK 80 Meter Net recording- HERE Sunday 8th April 2012.


SDR-Radio Console

Simon Brown HB9DRV in Switzerland has made available  recordings of Sunday’s AMSAT-UK 80m net that he made using a remote receiver in Poole, Dorset. What is remarkable about this recording is that a 20 km long experimental 2.4 GHz WiFi link was used at the Dorset end.

You can listen to the remote radio of Paul M0EYT in Poole, Dorset as well as other remote receivers in the United Kingdom and around the world via the Web Servers (Free)  page at

or try listening to the Dutch 80m web SDR at

Previous Net Recordings

Pop into the AMSAT-UK net for a chat this Sunday All are welcome.

Please allow a few Hours after the Net for the latest recording to appear



UKube-1: 4 payloads

Rt Hon David Willetts MP learns about UKube-1 visiting Clyde space, seeing the clean rooms and talking to Craig Clark about CubeSat components. Courtesy


The UK Space Agency’s pilot programme has narrowed down from a total of 20 proposals to four payloads to fly on Ukube-1 from UK industry and academia.

Payloads chosen include a CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) Imager Demonstrator, a specialist imaging device to measure radiation damage in space developed by the Open University and Essex-based e2v technologies.

Another, the United Kingdom Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (UKSEDS) payload, myPocketQub442, is an open source system comprising five experiments, one of which will allow school pupils, university students and hobbyists to run their own experiments in space for a day.

The other two payloads are the EADS Astrium , which will test random number generation crucial to secure communications systems in the radiation environment, and TOPCAT, a system designed by the University of Bath to measure space weather conditions which can adversely affect global positioning systems (GPS).

UKube-1 will also take an educational subsystem called FUNcube, developed by the voluntary organisation AMSAT-UK, to encourage young people to learn about radio, space, physics and electronics.

The spacecraft is being developed through a knowledge transfer project with Scottish spacecraft system developer Glasgow based Clyde Space and the University of Strathclyde, which Clyde Space is also funding.

One of the world’s leading firms in the micro spacecraft sector, dubbed CubeSat , Clyde Space has made components for about 40% of the 600 CubeSats launched globally so far. It also makes components for larger satellites.

Ukube-1 is also being funded by the UK Space Agency, the Technology Strategy Board and The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). The agency is currently in negotiations to find a launch vehicle to take the Ukube-1 satellite into space.

UKSEDS – Students for the Exploration and Development of Space

Bath TOPCAT Project