Student-Built ESEO Smallsat Attains Space

The European Student Earth Orbiter satellite (ESEO), which contains a vital payload designed and built by students from the University of Surrey, was launched into space on Monday, December 3, 2018 by the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, USA, as one of Spaceflight’s SSO-A mission payloads.

The ESEO satellite in the anechoic chamber at the ESTEC test facilities, in the Netherlands.

Image is courtesy of AMSAT-UK.

ESEO is part of a European Space Agency project that aims to prepare the European space workforce of tomorrow — with University of Surrey students getting the kind of hands-on, real life space engineering experience — through access to the Surrey Space Centre — that students elsewhere simply cannot receive. The radio and computing payload was designed and built by undergraduate and postgraduate students at the Surrey Space Centre and was achieved without central ESA funding.

The joint Surrey and AMSAT-UK payload transmits key information to the ground — such as vital power, temperature and speed — and is designed to use very low energy, allowing it to remain in a permanently on state. This allows members of the public to track the satellite with low tech equipment such as a direct amateur radio connection to the satellite’s internal data.

This mission is already part of history as it was the first time a rocket, the Space X Falcon 9, has been used on three launch missions.

Executive Comments

Dr. Chris Bridges, project lead and Senior Lecturer in On-Board Data Handling at the University of Surrey, said that at the Surrey Space Centre, all are accustomed to building and launching small satellites that have been engineered by seasoned experts and professionals. This project is unique as it has been achieved on a shoe string budget and completely led by students. This is the culmination of several final year students working to create something that will be flown in space. Students simply don’t get this type of experience elsewhere — here at the University of Surrey, their skills are honed on real industrial missions.

The Harris HSAT Smallsat Orbiting and Communicating in Good Order

Harris Corporation (NYSE: HRS) successfully launched and communicated with their first small satellite from India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, showcasing the company’s ability to provide complete end-to-end mission solutions for the fast-growing smallsat market.

The Harris HSAT smallsat.

Harris Satellite (HSAT) is a briefcase-size 6U smallsat that provides an affordable solution for defense and commercial customers with high-speed satellite communications requirements. Designed to fly in LEO, the satellite features a persistent, resilient mission architecture that can be reconfigured after launch, reducing risk for customers.

HSAT furthers the company’s 50-year legacy providing satellites with advanced, miniaturized technology capabilities. Harris will operate the smallsat from its satellite operations center and ground station in Palm Bay, Florida. Initial on orbit testing indicates HSAT is performing as expected.

Harris has been awarded multiple smallsat pathfinder missions in advance of launching HSAT. The company is adapting technologies used in its high-performance sensors and payloads, satellite ground systems, and advanced data analytics capabilities for smallsat platforms to safely leverage NewSpace benefits for critical mission needs.

Executive Comment

Bill Gattle, president, Harris Space and Intelligence System, stated that HSAT’s successful launch and initial testing showcases the company’s ability to design, build and operate a small, lightweight satellite that can be affordably launched as a ‘rideshare’ with other satellites on the same rocket. The satellite can then be reconfigured in space — enabling customers to upgrade or reprogram the application on orbit.


U.S.A.F. Academy Cadets’ FalconSAT-6 Smallsat Leverages Zero-G’s Weightless Lab for Testing

Zero Gravity Corporation’s Weightless Lab served as a valuable testing ground for the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), supported in part by Texas A&M University (TAMU) Construction Science Department, as they evaluated the FalconSAT-X on a zero-gravity flight that occurred on November 13 — tThe parabolic flight experiments raise readiness levels for launches such as the December 3rd FalconSAT-6 with SpaceX.

ZERO-G Weightless Lab provides a unique opportunity allowing researchers to conduct hands-on testing at a level matching NASA’s rigorous standards and procedures. On the research flight, students and cadets worked side by side to evaluate the in-flight motion performance of solar panels attached to FalconSAT-X, the next satellite to be built by USAFA which is currently in the conceptual design phase.

G-FORCE ONE®, ZERO-G’s specially modified Boeing 727, provides a unique platform for student groups, universities, commercial companies and more to test research and equipment bound for the International Space Station and beyond. By using a parabolic flight pattern to produce 30-second periods of microgravity, including Martian and Lunar gravities, ZERO-G gives researchers the opportunity to conduct hands-on testing and collect data in-person. The special lab conditions allowed researchers to easily observe experiment outcomes without interference from friction or other disturbances. Though each research group worked on independent experiments, they collaborated in post-run data collection.

U.S. Air Force Academy cadets clean the components of the FalconSat-6 satellite they and their instructors built at the Academy at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, this month.

Photo is courtesy of U.S.A.F.

Dr. Patrick Suermann, TAMU Construction Science Department Head and USAFA Alum, flew with the USAFA students as they deployed the tests during a series of 25 parabolic arcs offered during the flight. In addition to recording the general performance of the deployment and retraction of the solar panels attached to their test satellite, team members were able to observe the motion and vibration induced by moving the panels. On each run, the team would initiate the panels to either open or close depending on the sequence.

Cadet Connor Brazinski organized the USAFA efforts and led the team during the onboard research mission. Of their ZERO-G flight, Cadet Brazinski shared, “It’s fantastic seeing everyone’s hard work come to fruition on this flight. Our teams are very excited to examine the data and bring the results into the light.”

Testing the FalconSAT-6 smallsat in the Zero-G lab environment.

Terese Brewster, President and COO of ZERO-G, noted that as one of the last steps before sending experiments into orbit, the information collected from the groups who do research with us is vital for the future of space exploration. ZERO-G is proud to uphold standards and practices that are integral to their research and are happy to provide a place to observe space-bound technology.”
For additional information about the ZERO-G research program and how to participate during the March or November 2019 flights, please visit and click on the Research Tab.


Vorago Technologies Microcontroller Used in TechEdSat-8

VORAGO Technologies has expanded the flight heritage of their VA10820 microcontroller with the launch of the TechEdSat-8 smallsat.

The VA10820 MCU is used in the smallsat’s power management system and brings the programmability of an ARM© Cortex©-M0 CPU with high-performance integrated peripherals and the radiation environment performance of HARDSIL® processing.

TechEdSat-8 (Technical and Educational Satellite 8) was developed by San Jose State University and University of Idaho with NASA Ames Research Center. This smallsat is a technology demonstration platform that includes a high temperature exo-brake and ablation device.The satellite was launched on the CRS-16 cargo supply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on December 4 aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The satellite will be jettisoned from the ISS for operation in LEO.

Download the VA10820 datasheet at this direct link…

Executive Comment

Bernd Lienhard, CEO of VORAGO Technologies, stated the company is delighted to see yet another small satellite enabled by VORAGO Technologies. Affordable radiation-hardened components such as the VA10820 microcontroller are an important ingredient in the success of small satellite missions.

Statement from SSTL Confirms Successful Launch of KazSTSAT

With 64 satellites just launched from 17 countries there are many reports from numerous agencies. The following is the statement from Surrey Satellite Technology in the UK.

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has confirmed the successful launch of KazSTSAT, a small Earth observation satellite jointly developed by SSTL and JV Ghalam LLP, a joint venture between JSC “National Company Kazakhstan Garysh Sapary” (KGS) and Airbus Defence and Space.  The satellite was launched into a 575 km sun-synchronous orbit on board Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Air Base on 3rd December 2018.  

Sarah Parker, Managing Director of SSTL said “I am pleased to confirm that following separation from the launch vehicle a joint commissioning team here in Guildford have successfully made contact with KazSTSAT and established that all initial systems checks are nominal. I would like to congratulate our customer Ghalam on their new Earth Observation satellite and look forward to seeing the first mission results from the spacecraft soon.”

“It is a great event for us, this is the first mission in which the Ghalam team participated rather than being involved in its design, assembly and testing, and which also has a number of Kazakh technologies on board. We are very pleased with our partnership with SSTL and are grateful to our British partners for invaluable experience our team got in a truly collaborative environment,” said Ghalam CEO, Aibergen Ruslanuly.

KazSTSAT has a mass of 105kg and will acquire image data at 18.7 m GSD with a swath width of 275 km. The spacecraft carries several experimental and demonstration units, including a beyond diffraction limit imager, a sun sensor, and a novel OBCARM.  KazSTSAT will be operated by Ghalam, using a fully virtualized ground segment with S/X-band software defined back-ends deployed at KSAT ground stations in Svalbard and a technology demonstration ground station in Astana.

KazSTSAT is the second satellite SSTL has worked on with Kazakhstan; KazEOSat-2, a medium resolution satellite designed and manufactured by SSTL for KGS, was launched in 2014. 

Statement from Spaceflight, the Mission Manager, Launches 64 Satellites on First Dedicated Rideshare Mission

Most will never know all that is necessary to plan a launch, and then add to that the challenge of managing and being responsible for the launch of 64 satellites, a record breaking event to be sure, but that’s exactly what Spaceflight did.

Spaceflight, the leading rideshare and mission management provider, today announced the success of its SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission, the largest single rideshare mission from a U.S.-based launch vehicle to date. The company successfully launched 64 spacecraft to sun-synchronous low Earth orbit via a SpaceX Falcon 9 that launched today from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

“This was an incredibly complex mission, and I’m extremely proud of what our talented team at Spaceflight has achieved,” said Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight. “SSO-A is a major milestone for Spaceflight and the industry. We’ve always been committed to making space more accessible through rideshare. This mission enabled 34 organizations from 17 different countries to place spacecraft on orbit. It’s also special because it was completely dedicated to smallsats.”

Spaceflight launched 15 MicroSats and 49 CubeSats from government and commercial entities including universities, startups, and even a middle school. The payloads vary from technology demonstrations and imaging satellites to educational research endeavors.

One research payload includes the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s cubesat, SeaHawk-1 carrying the HawkEye Ocean Color Imager. UNCW has been funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and NASA serves in an advisory capacity to ensure the maximum scientific utility of the science data. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and UNCW have created a partnership to expand accessibility to the data.

“We are thrilled to have SeaHawk-1 on orbit and to be part of such a historic launch superbly executed by Spaceflight,” said Professor John Morrison, SeaHawk’s co-project manager and lead principal investigator. “SeaHawk will make ocean observations at significantly higher spatial resolution and at much lower costs than standard satellite systems. Since the data collected will be publicly available, our hope is that it will benefit not only researchers, but policymakers and others to make informed decisions when addressing issues related to the environment.”

To accommodate the large number of payloads, Spaceflight built an integrated payload stack that was nearly 20 feet tall. Once the launch vehicle reached orbit, the upper and lower free flyers separated from the vehicle. The free flyers then successfully deployed all spacecraft, dispensing one payload every five minutes over five hours.

“This launch was an impressive undertaking and an important milestone for the smallsat industry as well as for many of the organizations involved,” said Payam Banazadeh, founder and CEO of Capella Space Corporation. “Capella’s first satellite is now on orbit and we are one step closer to our goal of providing timely, reliable, and frequent information using Synthetic Aperture Radar technology.”

With the success of SSO-A, Spaceflight has now launched more than 210 satellites since its founding in 2011. In addition, the company is contracted to launch nearly 100 satellites in 2019. Among the upcoming launches is Spaceflight’s next dedicated rideshare mission, which will occur in 2019 on a Rocket Lab Electron.

Canadians Collaborate as ABB Measurement and Analytics Business Unit Manufactures GHGSat’s Optical Sensor 

ABB Measurement & Analytics Business Unit in Québec City, Canada, has signed a contract with Montréal-based company GHGSat to manufacture and test the optical sensor onboard the company’s third microsatellite (GHGSat-C2) aimed at monitoring greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted by industrial facilities around the world — GHGSat-C2, scheduled for launch in early 2020, will further the deployment of the GHGSat satellite constellation.

GHGSat-2 smallsat.

Counting more than 30 years of experience into the traditional government space market, ABB has provided key hardware contribution to sensors flying on leading Earth Observation (EO) missions such as AURA; TERRA; SciSat1; GOSAT 1 and 2; NPP; JPSS 1, 2, 3 and 4; Meteosat; MetOp-SG and others. Leveraging significant internal investments, ABB is now combining its expertise in space instrumentation with its core industrial manufacturing strengths to offer GHGSat winning conditions for rapid payload production and integration in a highly competitive environment.

Executive Comments

Stéphane Germain, President at GHGSat, said that GHGSat-C2 will build on lessons learned from the company’s demonstration satellite and provide additional capacity in key markets. The firm looks forward to working with ABB to make GHGSat-C2 a success,” said

Marc-Andre Soucy, Space and Defense Systems Director at ABB Measurement & Analytics Business Unit, added that this is an important opportunity for ABB to enter the commercial space sector and work on fast-paced, low-cost and high volume sensor development programs. This market segment is booming and ABB is determined to become a dominant player as our company is already structured for serial sensor production for industrial markets and highly specialized sensors for space.

Vietnam Set to Launch a Dragon … MicroDragon a Smallsat Set for January Launch

MicroDragon is readied for launch on January 17 of next year. Photo is courtesy of Lao Dong.

The launch date for MicroDragon, a smallsat developed by Vietnamese engineers, has been set for January 17 of 2019, the Vietnam National Space Centre (VNSC) has announced.

The Vietnamese satellite, weighing 50 kilograms, will be launched into orbit along with six other satellites aboard Japan’s Epsilon rocket, from the Uchinoura Space Centre in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.

MicroDragon will be separated from the rocket at an altitude of 511 kilometres, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

MicroDragon was developed by 36 Vietnamese engineers from the VNSC who studied at Tokyo University, Keio University, Hokkaido University, Tohoku University and the Kyushu Institute of Technology, under the guidance of experts from these institutions, from 2013 to 2017.

The satellite will be used to monitor the quality of coastal seawater for the fishery industry, as well as providing imagery for natural disaster response and climate change mitigation.

Orbital Micro Systems and NanoAvionics Partner to Rideshare on Smallsat Mission 

Orbital Micro Systems (OMS) is partnering with NanoAvionics to conduct a rideshare mission to fly one of OMS’s miniaturized passive microwave sensors — this mission will use the NanoAvionics M6P 6U satellite bus.

OMS is on track to launch multiple weather observation satellites in 2019. This mission will carry a humidity and precipitation monitoring sensor that will enhance the company’s data collection capabilities. These important atmospheric parameters play a role in decision-making, affecting many industries.

The NanoAvionics Multi-Purpose 6U Satellite Bus.

NanoAvionics’ innovations in bus technology include a green propulsion system, reliable avionics and control systems, and multiple transmission options. The M6P bus provides up to 5U of payload capacity which can be segmented for multiple systems or applications with compatible orbital requirements.

Executive Comments

William Hosack, CEO for OMS, said the company is delighted to work with an industry leader such as NanoAvionics in deploying an additional passive microwave sounder. The M6P is quickly becoming the gold standard for flexible bus solutions and provides a high degree of reliability which enables the company to deliver better weather data collection technology. This advanced bus architecture will help us accelerate OMS activities and enable the firm to quickly expand into multiple vertical and geographic markets.

Vytenis Buzas, CEO of NanoAvionics added that the goal at NanoAvionics is to provide a highly functional and reliable satellite bus which innovative payload developer,s such as OMS, can use to deliver space-based applications quickly and frequently. Space missions leveraging the firm’s services and buses can become much more economical for participants in shared missions through distributed launch costs.