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13 Pico-Satellites to Launch June 28th 98

leighklotz writes "The CalPoly CubeSat Program announced a launch date for its 13 amateur satellites: June 28, 2006 at 19:39:11Z, from the Kazakstan Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a Russian DNEPR-1LV rocket. The satellites are made from a kit, and are 10cm cubes." Read on for more info, including links to many of the individual satellite projects.

leighklotz continues: "There are also pictures of 14 satellites and info about some of them:

These folks have a list of ongoing CubeSat projects. And as always AMSAT is a good organization to join if you have any interest in using or building your own satellites."

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13 Pico-Satellites to Launch June 28th

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  • by IntelliAdmin ( 941633 ) * on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:11PM (#15440124) Homepage
    Wow. After looking through their price sheet it looks like you could build your own cubesat for about $20,000 US. I guess inexpensive is a relative term - still really cheap compared to the prices of a regular satellite. I wonder how much it costs them to get it up in the air.

    Windows Admin Tools [intelliadmin.com]
    • TFA says: 10 cm cubes.

      You just throw them really hard.

      Or use a slingshot.

    • when anyone says "Item X is inexpensive" they mean cmpared to other item Xes.
    • . . .about $20,000 US. I guess inexpensive is a relative term. . .

      $20,000 is where "cheap" ends in the violin market. The sort of thing you might send your kid to college with, or have made as a "cheap" copy of your "good" violin (a common practice for insurance purposes). I was looking at a mandolin last year that was made in the year I was born, in the city I was born in. It was going for $25,000. Just some bits of carved wood, baroque era tech.

      Yes, it's all relative.

    • According to an article [aura-astronomy.org] in the Denver Post:
      "Sending a heavy satellite into orbit costs tens of millions of dollars, or approximately $10,000 a pound."
      So, even if these 10cm cubes keep it to one half pound, they're still looking at a $5,000 bill to get it into space. But apparantly, the Bush administration is spending much to find new methods or vehicles to reduce this cost (hopefully soon).
    • Errr... (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Isn't anyone else curious as to why the headline mentions 13 sattelites, and the article mentions 14?

      Not that I don't expect such things from Slashdot, but... :)
    • The dnepr costs about #11.7m USD to launch, and it can lift a whole whack of weight to leo, so people like using it (it's cheap compared to other options) and there is often weight allowance left over. Its really cool that they opened this up to students.


    • One of the things I learned from Planetes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetes) is that these things have the capacity to kill someone on a shuttle transport in the future. Please consider the shuttle transport passengers of the future!
    • $20,000 is relatively cheap when you compare that to the $20,000 Rad-hard version of the RCA 1802 (think late 1970s) CPU that is being used in some of the latest AMSAT birds. Besides, as someone mentioned below, none of the CubeSats on the two currently scheduled DNEPR launches are using the cubesat kits and therefore are likely cheaper. For instance, CAPE1 from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette which I am currently working on only costs about $8000 in hardware costs (obviously total development co
  • YOU watch satellite
  • by lecithin ( 745575 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:14PM (#15440163)
    forcasted orbital elements below. Why are they using a 97.43 degree inclination?

    P-POD A
    1 99999U 06179.82920000 .00000000 00000-0 00000-0 0 00002
    2 99999 097.4300 088.0700 0022000 210.1300 328.3600 15.15090000000016

    P-POD B
    1 99999U 06179.82920000 .00000000 00000-0 00000-0 0 00002
    2 99999 097.4300 088.0700 0035000 210.1495 328.6600 15.12640000000013

    P-POD C
    1 99999U 06179.82920000 .00000000 00000-0 00000-0 0 0000
    2 99999 097.4300 088.0700 0048000 210.1537 328.8600 15.10180000000011

    P-POD D
    1 99999U 06179.82920000 .00000000 00000-0 00000-0 0 00002
    2 99999 097.4300 088.0700 0060000 210.1680 329.0500 15.07710000000019

    P-POD E
    1 99999U 06179.82920000 .00000000 00000-0 00000-0 0 00002
    2 99999 097.4300 088.0700 0073000 210.1857 329.2300 15.05210000000012
    • I have never studied astrodynamics, and even had to go look up what exactly inclination is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclination [wikipedia.org]

      So why is 97.4 degree Inclination bad, good, or are you just asking?

    • by rijrunner ( 263757 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:35PM (#15440321)
      That is a sun synchronous orbit. Fairly useful if you are taking photos. Every time you pass over part of your orbit, the shadows will be at the same angle as your previous pass. Much easier to calculate form and height when you always know the relative angle to the sun.

      It is also a useful orbit in that it covers the entire planet, including the poles. If you are interested in items, such as global warming and relative ice-pack, you need to use this sort of orbit.

      Not sure if any of the sats in this are configured as Amsats, but this high an inclination could even allow people living in the far north and far south some communcation relay capability.
      • that's exactly it. With all the schools all over the place they need to make passes over each one. Plus it was where the launch was going. Secondary payloads don't get to make big decisions like where they go into orbit.
    • Why are they using a 97.43 degree inclination?
      Most likely because that's the orbit the real payload is going into - hitchikers (like these picosats) can rarely afford to be choosy.
  • by Puff of Logic ( 895805 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:15PM (#15440165)
    It's always interesting to see space stuff done on a smaller scale. In some ways, it's almost more interesting. For example, while the ISS is cool, chucking a spacesuit out of the airlock to make an impromptu satellite was satisfying on some other level than I usually find, say, the latest Hubble shot. There's probably some key insight here, but I'm too tired to actually engage my brain more fully.
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:18PM (#15440189)
    Just what we need. Just one look at those pictures... the non-anti-aliased pictures of the CubeSats...

    ...can't resist... Brain failing...

    The 10x10x10cm, 1kg CubeSat standard... musn't look at pictures. Mustn't - NO! P-POD Allocations for Dnepr L1 campaign is thinking inside the box! Initial Cubesat cluster velocity magnitude measured in thousands of meters per second! CubeSat projects have the potential to educate cubeless participants and implement successful harmonic simultaneous time cube! [timecube.com]

      -1 x -1= +1 is WRONG, it is academic stupidity and is evil. The educated stupid should acknowledge the natural antipodes of +1 x +1 = +1 and -1 x -1 = -1 exist as plus and minus values of opposite creation - depicted by opposite sexes and opposite hemispheres. Entity is death worship - for it cancels opposites. I have invested 30 years of my life and over 1/4 millions dollars researching Nature's 4 - simultaneous 24 hour days within a single rotation of Earth.
    • ...they are MIRV warheads. RUN!
  • I went to their website but, I can't seem to find any places to buy these. I found a price list, but no distributors... Any help?
    • look for cubesat kit on google. They're kit is pretty decent for Highschool and other's without the production capabilities.
    • I think you have to contact them directly. Pumpkin, Inc. [cubesatkit.com] I think the guy's name is Andrew but I don't remember for sure. I wasn't able to make the CubeSat workshop a few weeks ago, but he's usually there. The next one is in August, coinciding with SmallSat [smallsat.org].
  • by SteeldrivingJon ( 842919 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:19PM (#15440201) Homepage Journal
    they were swallowed by small dog.
  • I love Pico (Score:5, Funny)

    by pharwell ( 854602 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:29PM (#15440275) Homepage
    Pico-satellites are way better than Vi-satellites or Emacs-satellites.
  • Hardly Pico (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Metabolife ( 961249 )
    10cm across, these aren't even micro.
  • ION is... The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's first student-developed satellite The first satellite completely developed in the state of Illinois ...as far as we know A fully independent spacecraft A double CubeSat (smaller than a shoebox at 4" x 4" x 8") Launching from Baikonur, Kazakhstan using the Russian DNEPR-1 launch vehicle, a converted ICBM

    ..welcome our prolific, nuclear-capable overlords!

  • by Axe ( 11122 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:46PM (#15440394)
    13 sattelites on board of a "Satan" rocket. They should have scheduled the launch on July 6, 2006. 06/06/06.
  • by Cthefuture ( 665326 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @07:50PM (#15440421)
    I briefly looked at some of the sats going up and I can't see what the point of them is. Just send them up and see if you can read the beacon? What's the point? We already know we can do that. Send back some data on system status and such? WTF?

    As an amateur operator myself I would like to see something useful up there instead of more junk. Cameras, telescopes, sensors, repeaters, or something even more useful that the students come up with. I mean if you're going through all the expense at least put some creative effort into it.
    • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @08:36PM (#15440732) Homepage Journal
      building working space hardware is difficult. You may think that getting that robot ready for the wars is difficult, but that is nothing when compared to creating hardware that can survive launch, insertion, and LEO enviroment, much less produce useful results.

      We see in the sheer ignorance of the average person when our president says we will have happy moon bases in a few years, or when others say manned space travel is unneccesary, or the space station is just a waste. Space is generally beyond our compreshension and outside of common experience. We will always insert assumptions in our design, assumption that come from real expereince, and those assumption will cost us missions. The only way to conteract those assumption is through experience. Expensive, time consuming, fustrating, with no monetary profit, experience.

      And this is why such project are so important. Space develop is generally stagnant because most of the people who have real experience are old. How many people under thirty do you know that have build a sattilite? How do we expect to explore space if the only people with space experience are locked up in government laboratories?

      People complain tha all NASA does is PR stuff. Then someone tries to do real space work, for the sole purpose of building experience in space, and created authentic human experience, the same people complain it is a waste of money. Most of what every engineer does in school is a waste of money. It has mostly been done before. But before we can shoot a person to mars, someone has to have launched a little sattilite in orbit. As a person who build rockets since childhood, and had the opportunity to work on a sattilite, I can tell you that no matter how little the sattilite actually did, the exeperience is invaluable. And if we are going to have a working space program, we have to college kids the opportunity to work on real space hardware. Otherwise we can just shut down the space program, which, of course, is what a lot of people want. More money to kill them foreners, ya know.

      • Yeah but this is like being in automotive engineering class and building a modern car with wooden wheels. The students need the experience of building a car but we already have vast knowledge on how to build a car. Since they are starting with a huge base of knowledge, at least make it functional otherwise the experience is lacking.

        In other words, we already have the technology (modern tires in my example), why not use it and create something that is at least partly useful?

        I'm not complaining about studen
        • actually most of the industry doesn't believe you can make a satellite this small useful. I saw many people tell us it was impossible to put a fully redundant 430Mhz transceiver and the complete CDH on a 4"x4" board. That's about the time we would hand the board to them and point to the other board with the antenna and power hooked up and transmitting at that time.

          Also, almost every CubeSat runs on batteries that have never been space qualified or flow before. Most of the components are not "space qualified
          • actually most of the industry doesn't believe you can make a satellite this small useful.

            And there's nothing in this batch of birds to change that belief.

            Also, almost every CubeSat runs on batteries that have never been space qualified or flow before. Most of the components are not "space qualified" because they don't want to radiation harden them. CubeSats are set to prove you don't need all that extra crap.

            That would be an interesting proof - given that it runs against decades of experience covering h

        • As twostar stated, most of industry didn't originally see this form-factor as viable. Building a satellite in this small of a package is ridiculously challenging—it is actually easier to build a larger satellite, because there is more power, more physical space, etc. The reason many of these satellites are only diagnostic telemetry is the satellite itself is the payload. For instance, CAPE1 (riding on the next launch) is primarily focused on building the vehicle for a more sophisticated payload in
      • And this is why such project are so important. Space develop is generally stagnant because most of the people who have real experience are old.
        Except that space development isn't stagnant.
        How many people under thirty do you know that have build a sattilite?
        These birds are to commercial satellite construction as a balsa wood airplane is to Boeing.
        • These birds are to commercial satellite construction as a balsa wood airplane is to Boeing.

          Yet, Burt Rattan (of SpaceShipOne fame), who started in balsa wood airplane building/design and who hires mostly balsa wood airplane builders*, is building more innovative space vehicles than Boeing.

          From a recent AMA (Academy Of Model Aeronautics) magazine interview.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I am one of the designers of the Illinois ION satellite. Part of the purpose of these projects is to give students an opportunity to do space applications, not easy to come by at most universities. Also, most satellites *do* have actual functions. Some take data for university research, and some test out new concepts in space engineering. There are uses for these things, its more than orbital litter.
    • As educational projects, a lot of these groups (specifically the Cal Poly CPx crew) are focused primarily on giving students hands-on experience with actually researching, designing, building, testing, and (finally) operating a fully functional spacecraft. However, each satellite generally has a fairly significant payload; they're not "just junk".

      For an example, check out the guys at Tokyo University; they've launched two cubesats now, one on the 2003 launch and one recently on SSETI (XV-IV and XV-V,

    • You can't just say, "Ok guys, you've been studying in school and all know F=ma. Now make something that goes to the moon." You have to start small, train people in real world situations and grow on that. With this kind of project you get to go from initial team formation, to Preliminary design, to detailed design, to production, to integration and test, to operations all in a matter of a single college career. No one has ever had that chance or capability until now. Now you are bringing in engineers from
    • Obviously you didn't put much effort into figuring out what these satellites do.

      For example, if you click on Cornell's ICE CubeSat, it takes you to the AMSAT info page for the sat, which has a link to Cornell's own page for the sat, which has LOTS of details on the design of the sat, and more importantly, the science package the sat is carrying. Most of the other university sats are also carrying some sort of science package (most of them are cameras I believe, but I'm not sure.)

      To summarize it in basic te
    • Read TFA... Or TF-Sattelite-Description

      ION's missions include...

      • Measuring molecular oxygen airglow emissions in the Earth's mesosphere
      • Performing the first space test of Alameda's micro-vacuum arc thrusters
      • Performing the first space test of Tether Application's SID processor board
      • Performing Earth imaging using a CMOS camera
      • Demonstrating attitude stabilization on a CubeSat

      ION has a lot of sensors. Also, they are a wonderful learning tool for engineers, since it is not that easy to make an electronic

    • The purpose of creating these small university satellites is to provide a pathway for students to enter this field. Since the early 1970's, very few engineers have entered the space industry, so now, 30 years later, the workforce is getting older and older. Being a program manager of a university small satellite program, I commend the students for having built operational satellites. It is not an easy task. The requirements for building a space worthy device are far more stringent than for something tha
  • Impact (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dark grep ( 766587 )
    Very good, a bunch of unstearable, 10cm objects traveling at orbital velocity, that will be all but undetectable when their batteries run down. I think about 20cm of steel plate would stop one - or several astronauts in line.
  • You hear about companies such as Google thinking about going wireless here [com.com] and here [msn.com]. I wonder if satellite would be a cheaper alternative instead?

    I might even buy one to broad cast my own TV channels and music out there ;), me or even copyleft groups like CreativeCommons can some and then take the media companies by storm.

  • I would love to launch one of those babies with Wifi and a Webcam.

    You could probably get better footage of what NASA is releasing to the public.


    Watch this!

  • Damnit! This is the last thing I need. It used to be just governments I had to worry about. Now it could be universities, small companies, even people with reasonably deep pockets! I'm running out of tinfoil to protect my brain from them!
    • To steal a bit from Arthur C. Clarke . . . Privacy is one of those things that only works when either everyone has it, or no one does. If everyone had access to their own personal spy satellites then we're all on equal footing. (well . . a little more equal footing, anyway)
  • by Elrond, Duke of URL ( 2657 ) <JetpackJohn@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 31, 2006 @10:19PM (#15441266) Homepage

    I programmed the University of Arizona cubesats. We actually have two satellites launching from the Cosmodrome this summer. The first is, as the summary notes, called Rincon. It is named for Rincon Research which provided us much of the funding. Rincon Research is in turn named for the mountain range on the East side of Tucson. The other satellite is called SACRED, and, honestly, I can't actually remember what it stands for. I think it's something in French...

    The summary is not entirely correct about the construction of the cubesats. Some are indeed made from the kit, but not all. Ours, for example, were completely designed and built at the UA with the exception of the radio transceivers. SACRED also includes an experiment board designed by the Univ. of Montpelier.

    Here's a much better link to a page describing the cubesats:

    UA Cubesats [arizona.edu]

    Some of the other posts have been complaining about the purpose of these cubesats. It's true that they are all very simple. But you have to remember that they were designed and built by students (with faculty help, of course). The UA cubesats have PIC 16F877 microcontrollers on board with 64 KB of ferromagnetic storage memory. So, it's understandable that they will be limited.

    The Rincon satellite has twelve sensors which monitor voltage, temperature, and current. These will let us know how well the cubesat is working and hopefully allow us to compute its spin rate. SACRED also has an experiment board which will perform some radiation tests on a few electronic components.

    These cubesats (the UA's at least) are more than just beacons, as some posters have suggested. I programmed them, so I'm well aware of their capabilities. They have, for their size, a fairly decent command structure and allow for two-way communication. They take measurements on a schedule (which can be modified) and store the results for later transmission to the ground station in Tucson, Arizona. For the extra curious among you, you can read the cubesat manual I wrote for our project:

    Cubesat II Operating System Owner's Manual [arizona.edu]

    • I'll second all those points. As a long-time member of the University of Arizona Cubesat program, I've worked on groundstation code, system integration, and all sorts of field tests. It's been fantastic to work with other students, industry veterans and university faculty. The experience gained has been invaluable, and I give my involvement in the Cubesat program full credit for getting me into grad school and subsequently securing me a job. The goals of these programs are education an fun, and they suc
  • Just to set the record straight; CubeSats are not normally "built from a kit". There's a CubeSat kit available, but none of the 14 being launched are using it, and none of the 5 satellite on the next DNEPR launch use it. It's a great kit, but it's not the only way CubeSats are made. :)
  • Errors and Omissions (Score:3, Informative)

    by leighklotz ( 192300 ) on Thursday June 01, 2006 @12:50AM (#15442057) Homepage
    I'm pleased that so many of the principals involved in the Cubesat program have joined this discussion.

    I didn't know that they CubeSat Kits were unrelated to the current activities, but more importantly, I want to apologize for omitting the 14th satellite, MEROPE [montana.edu] from Montana State University. I want to thank Brian Larsen of MSU for pointing this out to me, and I hope Brian joins this discussion.

    One thing I learned about all this activity around space, satellites, and its intersection with computer science and other technologies is that at least among people who are skilled enough in all those disciplines to get a satellite into orbit, amateur radio is still interesting. [slashdot.org]
  • To answer some of the questions in this thread:

    - Yes, $20k is actually cheap to build a satellite, but most of the schools did not buy kits and instead fabricated their sats themselves or bought COTS pieces from different sources.

    - 97.4 degree inclination is sun-sync and was not chosen by the schools. The cubesats are piggy-backing on the Russian rocket that has a full-sized foreign bird as a primary payload.

    - If you're asking yourself what's the point of a project like this, you've missed the idea complet
    • Very good response.

      As far as the piggyback delays are concerned this is extremely appropriate for the two DNEPR launches as this June launch was originally scheduled for October 2004, while the next one was originally October 2005.

      • To be precise about it, the current launch was originally scheduled for October 2005, and is informally called the BelkA launch, due to its primary payload. The other launch, EgyptSat, is currently scheduled for September of this year (after over two years of delays now). The satellites were swapped in order to get the first set of satellites in orbit after such a long wait.

        • Yes, I realize that I just wasn't sure if that was too much detail for the topic. I'm currently working on Comm for CAPE1 on the second set of CubeSats. In a way, we needed the extra time for proper testing and such. However, there's been speculation that this launch will never leave the ground because of the extensive delays experienced so far (as you said 2 years).

          It's kind of funny since we were hoping to see how well some of the hardware performed on the first launch of CubeSats. By now, it's too lat
          • Yea, the delays sorta threw a monkey wrench in Cal Poly's plan to use the operations from CP2 to help improve CP3's bus (CP3 is simply an evolution of CP2 with a different payload).
            Cool to see so many other CubeSat developers popping out of the woodworks. I've done a bunch of software for CP3. :)
            • Well it kind of worried me when the post stated that these sats were built from a kit, when in fact none of them were. I've been a reader of Slashdot for a few years now, but had to create an account for this post.
  • by 4D6963 ( 933028 )
    From TFA : "Intelligent Design = Maximum Flexibility"

    They must be looking for trouble

  • I remember designing with the PC/104 bus [pc104.org] how naturally cube-shaped the results were. It was a serious limitation with packaging and mounting because no single dimension could be less than four inches. (E.g. some large flat areas were available but unusable.) Odd that a satellite might be the worlds most ideal packaging for PC/104 applications.

"More software projects have gone awry for lack of calendar time than for all other causes combined." -- Fred Brooks, Jr., _The Mythical Man Month_