European Space Agency (ESA), in close collaboration with ArianeGroup and Arianespace, has selected payloads that best fit the profile of the first mission of its new-generation Ariane 6 launch vehicle, which will lift off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, in South America.
ISTsat-1, the first Portuguese CubeSat, is one of the experiments on board. ISTsat-1 is a 1U CubeSat developed by IST students in the framework of ESA’s Fly Your Satellite Programme, with participation and sponsoring from IST, as well as IT, INESC-id and IDMEC research institutes. The project is led by the IST professor and IT researcher Rui Rocha, and involves other professors from IST and IT, INESC-id, and IDMEC as student mentors for the development of each satellite sub-system. ESA procured the launcher, Ariane 6, and supports the costs of the CubeSat launch.
ISTsat-1’s main mission is to demonstrate the feasibility of aircraft tracking from space, despite the small 1U form factor of the satellite, and its tight energy budget. It will use a custom-developed Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system, and it is expected to perform the characterization of aircraft’s ‘cone of silence’ and in-flight performances.
Rui Rocha explained to the IST podcast “110 Histórias, 110 Objetos” that “the satellite is a 10-cm sized cube – internationally standardized unit size for this type of devices (1U) – where it fits “a lot of things”, a sensation amplified by the potential of nanotechnology in electronics.”
The satellite has already undergone a few environmental tests at dedicated ESA facilities and will continue intensive testing to prove that it is reliable and safe to withstand harsh launch stresses and the space environment.
This project is contributing to developing at IT a high level of technology readiness (TRL9) capability, which will be key for future participation in more advanced space-related projects, collaborating with the industry.
Image credits: ISTsat-1