Students and professors have been working very hard during the last three and a half years in order to send the concentrated cube of high technology into space. The SwissCube satellite is only 10 cubic centimeters in size and weighs a light 820 grams.
It is equipped with a telescope to fulfill its mission of observing airglow. Airglow is a luminescent phenomenon in the planetary atmosphere caused by cosmic rays striking the upper atmosphere and chemiluminescence caused mainly by oxygen and nitrogen reacting with hydroxyl ions at heights of a few hundred kilometers. The satellite should allow students and researchers to better understand the phenomenon, especially during day and night cycles.
But the real goal of the SwissCube project is more pedagogic that atmospheric. Almost 200 students working closely with experienced researchers from the EPFL and several other technical schools and departments have collaborated on the project. From the conception, through the design, and finally the fabrication of the Swiss spatial sparkler—these young engineers have had the unique opportunity of participating in a space project from the first brainstorming sessions to the data collection once in orbit. This educational model focuses on cross-platform collaboration from A-Z, and apart from ensuring an exceptional finished product, prepares students for the work world in a way that sets it apart from similar attempts at other technical universities that often buy a prefabricated CubeSat kit. Furthermore, keeping to a strict budget helps students learn how to deal with monetary constraints once in the work world.
A low-cost and innovative satellite
Ruag Space, the Loterie romande, and the Swiss government contributed to the majority of the project's financing with several Swiss enterprises contributing the rest. With the exception of a small involvement by the German company EADS-Astrium, the project was a wholly Swiss collaboration. In sum, the total cost of the project is 600,000 Swiss francs (400,000 Euro), including the launching; surprisingly little when compared to the high cost of most satellites, or even other student based projects.
The most difficult technical aspect is found in its extremely small size. Brutal variations of temperature (-50°C to over 70°C) as well as solar radiation and spatial vacuum subject the material to the toughest conditions. Vibrations caused by the launching do not allow for the smallest error in welding. For each component, engineers and students had to run a series of fastidious tests in order to ensure their durability.
The size and budget constraints have led to several innovations that may be used in future commercial satellites. For example, the engineers had to develop a more efficient system of copper contacts connecting the solar cells to the walls of the satellite to conduct electricity to the interior. By playing with the size, form, and spacing of these contacts, the team developed a new method which is both efficient and inexpensive.
The SwissCube mission should last between three months and one year. Traveling at over seven kilometers a second, the satellite will complete a full rotation of the earth every 99 minutes. Once or twice a day, the EPFL and the HES-SO in Fribourg, Switzerland, will receive radio transmission from the SwissCube—allowing for only 10 minutes to deliver complex information: telescope images, temperature measurements as well as scientific data about airglow. These data will be indispensable for preparing future Swiss satellites, for there will be, without a doubt, more than just one Swiss satellite orbiting the earth in the upcoming years.
Maurice Bourgeaud | EurekAlert!
Gamma rays will reach beyond the limits of light
23.10.2017 | Chalmers University of Technology
Creation of coherent states in molecules by incoherent electrons
23.10.2017 | Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
23.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
23.10.2017 | Life Sciences
23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine