Menu
Fleet of CubeSat nanosatellites now orbiting earth, sending back data

Fleet of CubeSat nanosatellites now orbiting earth, sending back data

CubeSats built by NASA and various colleges lifted off November 19 on a US Air Force Minotaur 1 rocket

Scientists are already receiving and analyzing information coming in from a fleet of tiny satellites launched into space last week.

NASA and the U.S. Air Force teamed up to launch an Air Force Minotaur 1 rocket carrying 28 small satellites, some built by college students, on November 19 from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The satellites, dubbed CubeSats because of their cube shape, were built by people from various organizations and universities, including NASA, Vermont Technical College, University of Kentucky and University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The CubeSats, nanosatellites about the size of a loaf of bread, are now in in lower Earth orbit.

The satellites measure about 4 inches on each side, have a volume of about 1 quart and weigh less than 3 pounds, according to NASA. The developers of the technology are focused making relatively inexpensive satellites that can be used to create distributed networks in space.

The organizations developing the CubeSats launched this month each have different missions. By launching all at the same time, scientists anticipate multiple technology advances to result.

"Instead of having a single satellite go up and do one type of science, we can have multiple missions run for different applications and prove out different technologies on these small platforms," said James Chartres, a project manager at the NASA Ames Research Center. "It keeps evolving the technology. By having a lot of these technologies available, we can launch faster and make strides quicker."

NASA's CubeSat, called PhoneSat 2.4, is powered by a Nexus S smarthone and uses a solar array to keep it charged. Engineers are hoping it can stay working in orbit for at least two years. Part of its mission is to find out how long it can remain active and send data back to earth.

Carl Brandon, director of the CubeSat Lab at Vermont Technological College, said the device built there, dubbed the Vermont Lunar Cubesat, was the first of the 28 devices to send data back to earth.

Before it had completed its first orbit, it began sending back a beacon with its radio call sign identification and data on its power supply, said Brandon, also a professor at the school.

"The biggest challenge was getting it built," he said. "We had much too small of a team to do this. We got it finished. It's in orbit and it's working. That was the big challenge."

Brandon said 80% of the school's CubeSat's software was built by one student.

"What it does is it really shows that you can build a lot of these relatively small and inexpensive satellites," said Brandon. "This will encourage other universities to get involved. It's an enormously valuable experience for our students."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Read more about emerging technologies in Computerworld's Emerging Technologies Topic Center.

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags hardwareU.S. Air ForceNASAEmerging Technologieshardware systemsgovernmentGovernment/Industries

Slideshows

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Reseller News looks back on a tumultuous 12 months for the New Zealand channel, assessing the fallout from a year of sizeable industry change. Whether it be local or global mergers and acquisitions, distribution deals or job changes, the channel that started the year differs somewhat to the one set to finish it - Reseller News assesses the key moments that made 2016.​

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016
​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

Hewlett Packard Enterprise honoured its top performing Kiwi partners at the second running of its HPE Partner Awards in New Zealand, held at a glitzy ceremony in Auckland. Recognising excellence across eight categories - from distributors to resellers - the tech giant celebrated its first year as a standalone company, following its official split from HP in 2015.

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel
Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix recently took to the seas for a Christmas Cruise around Sydney Harbour with its Australia and New Zealand staff, customers and partners to celebrate a stellar year for the vendor. With the sun out, they were all smiles and mingled over drinks and food.

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise
Show Comments