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Cubesats: Project 5-100 Universities Contribution to the Space Industry

April 12, 2021

60 years ago a human being made a flight to Earth's orbit for the first time in the world. The entire planet knows and remembers this event. It seems that the fact that the first artificial satellite was launched into space four years earlier is not that important. In honor of the Cosmonautics Day, we would like to pay special attention to satellites highlighting the idea that they became harbingers of the human space exploration era. Therefore, we reviewed the developments of Project 5-100 universities of on this topic.

On March 22, 2021, Soyuz-2.1a satellite rocket was launched with 38 satellites from 18 countries from the Baikonur cosmodrome. In addition to foreign satellites, two school satellites were launched into the orbit as part of the Big Challenges program of the Space pi project: CubeSX-HSE (Higher School of Economics), CubeSX-Sirius-HSE (joint cubesat of the Sirius Center and the Higher School of Economics), as well as student satellite "OrbiKraft-Zorky", which was created within the framework of the all-Russian program "Duty on the Planet".

Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University arranged and became a base university of the all-Russian project Space pi created to attract school students to the study of space technologies. The Big Challenges and the Duty on Planet programs combined space contests with different specializations, where school students aged from 12 to 16 presented their research or practical ideas to be implemented to an orbiting nanosatellite.

Remote sensing of the Earth was chosen as a priority direction in order to monitor the ecological state of the planet's surface from space.

Sergey Makarov, SPbPU Higher School of Applied Physics and Space Technologies professor explains the importance of the project: “This is not an ordinary event. Imagine that everything that was used in a large rocket in a large volume now fits into a small carrier. The Space Pi project aims to give students the opportunity to make their ideas they sent to the competition come true. More than a thousand applications were accepted within the framework of the Duty on Planet Competition, only 20 were selected. The second mission of this program is that for the first time we try to do all this using indigenous platform and software”.

By the way, the Samara National Research University named after academician S.P. Korolyov since 2015 has been organizing its all-Russian competition for research engineers "Sputnik" for high school students (the final stage is held on the territory of the "Artek" camp), the result of which is also the creation of a nanosatellite.

But let's dwell in more detail on each satellite. In general, cube satellites are small spacecraft, their sizes are measured in units (U); one unit is not greater than 10 × 10 × 10 cm and weighing not greater than 1.33 kg. Inside, as a rule, there are systems for radio monitoring of the earth's surface, systems for remote sensing of the earth's surface and atmosphere, radar and optical control, devices for monitoring the state of outer space, etc..

The Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics of the National Research University Higher School of Economics (MIEM NRU HSE) and the SPUTNIX company took part in the development of the CubeSX-HSE cubesat. The device is built on the basis of the OrbiCraft-Pro 3U CubeSat format, equipped with a unique camera for photography, developed by scientists from the Samara University and a high-speed X-band transmitter.

It is important to note that previously, optics based on diffractive lenses have not been used in space.

The second cubesat - CubeSX-Sirius-HSE - is identical to the first, but in addition to the above, the space laboratory of the Sochi educational center "Sirius" took part in its development. As the press service of the Higher School of Economics informs, while managing the satellite, receiving and processing information, the specialists will be able to solve practical problems daily related to the stay of cubesats in orbit. Ensuring the reception of telemetric information at a low satellite altitude above the horizon, calculating the required frequency shift to compensate for the Doppler effect, as well as automatic frequency adjustment during reception and transmission, taking into account this shift, is an incomplete list of tasks. By doing all of the above, students will be able not only to improve their knowledge in the field of specialized subjects, but also to acquire unique engineering skills in working with a small spacecraft.

The 6-unit OrbiKraft-Zorkiy will also be dealing with remote sensing: in addition to a more powerful camera, it has two star and six solar sensors, an X-band transmitter, two VHF transmitters, two computing modules, and this is not a complete list.

The next launch of cubesats is scheduled in November 2021 within the framework of the Duty on Planet project.

Note that SPbPU, in addition to supervising such important all-Russian projects as Space pi and Duty on the Planet, is working on its own developments for microsatellites.

For example, a terrestrial antenna complex has been installed and put into operation at the university. With its help, communication with spacecraft of the Space pi program and reception of signals from satellites of the Aist-2D series are carried out. Research results obtained from satellites are used for scientific and educational purposes, for work with students and school students. Maps of the areas over which spacecraft fly are created and video images are analyzed. Starting in 2022, scientists will analyze radio monitoring and automatic vessel identification maps. A new class of ion engines for spacecraft has been developed. Together with Mozhaiskiy VKA conducted tests in a vacuum chamber of a mockup engine for small spacecraft. A working sample of such an engine was accepted for testing at the Fakel Design Bureau (Kaliningrad). The first installation of such an engine on a cubesat is planned in 2023.

The equipment for cubesats for the high-precision automatic vessel identification system (AIS) has been improved. All civilian vessels are equipped with radio-technical data transmission devices, which contain information about the type of vessel, its course, and the cargo on board. Now this information is received by ground stations, but the signal may be weak if the ship is far from the coast. Kubesats flying over the waters of the seas and oceans will collect a data packet and transmit it to Earth. The information obtained is essential for the safety of shipping and maritime logistics. The developments are being carried out jointly with Roskosmos, there is support from industrial partners, including the Geoscan company.

Of course, we have listed far from all the space-related Project 5-100 universities developments, we had to limit ourselves only to the topic of satellites. But in the following reviews, we will tell you what unique materials are being created for the aerospace industry, what scientists have been able to see through a telescope, and what substances of alien origin can be useful on Earth.