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Satellite launch
© ISRO / © dpa-Bildfunk
Student Satellite sucessfully launched into orbit

April 30, 2008

The miniature 10x10x10 cm³ COMPASS-1 satellite of the Aachen University of Applied Sciences has been launched into orbit successfully. The so-called “Pico Satellite”, with a mass of less than 1 kilogram, will take pictures of the earth from the unique point of view of a satellite in orbit.

The satellite, constructed entirely by students, was launched at 05:53 CET. They then had to wait for the second pass over Europe before they finally received confirmation from the satellite. It works flawlessly and has already transferred data about its temperature status. It seems that the four years of hard work by the students has paid off.

The team of students and professors who had worked on the satellite gathered at the university in the early hours of the morning to follow the launch of the satellite on a big screen. The carrier rocket was launched from the Sriharikota Space Center in India. Along with nine other large and small satellites the rocket made its way towards orbit. 13 minutes later it had reached a height of 636 kilometers, where it released the first satellite.

The satellite’s functions

The satellite itself is to provide images of earth. And, to be able to provide images of good quality, the satellite will be attitude stabilized in order to guarantee a constant pointing of the camera towards the earth. To fulfil this task, a sophisticated attitude control system based on purely magnetic control was developed and implemented into this tiny satellite. To sense the satellites' attitude, the system incorporates a commercial off-the-shelf magnetometer and five analogue sun sensors, which were developed by the Microelectronics Center (MIC) of the Denmark Technical University (DTU). The evaluation of the altitude control systems' functionality and performance in orbit will be the main research output of this mission.

In addition to this, the satellite also carries a Phoenix GPS developed by the German Space Center (DLR). During the testing phase, continuous measurements of the GPS receiver will be recorded over some defined time interval. This data will then be delivered to the DLR for evaluation of the GPS performance in orbit on board a CubeSat.

If everything goes according to plan COMPASS-1 will regularly deliver data for up to 6 months (and perhaps even longer), before its electronic components become damaged by the energy-rich radiation of the sun and cease to function. After a few years the Pico Satellite then enters the earth’s atmosphere, where it disintegrates.

Perhaps by then there will already be a successor model to the COMPASS-1. A second version is already on the drawing board.


© dpa-Bildfunk



© Young Germany
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