MSU’s Space Science Center Celebrates Satellite Launches

Dec 2, 2013

Launch 1:

Kentucky Space LLC (KS) announced Wednesday that at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday night KentuckySat-2 ( KySat-2) was launched from the NASA Launch Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia. Shortly after liftoff the spacecraft was successfully inserted into orbit at 500 km x 500 km @ 40.5 degrees. Ground operation stations in Kentucky, the U.S. and Japan have reported receiving data packets from the satellite indicating that systems are functioning normally. 

KySat-2 is a 1.3 kg (approximately 3 pound) CubeSat class satellite whose primary mission involves a technical demonstration of a stellar gyroscope -- an innovative imager and mathematical models to determine spacecraft dynamics. KySat-2 was launched as a secondary payload on the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS-3) mission on an Orbital Sciences Minotaur rocket. KySat-2 was selected for flight by NASA's Educational Launch of a Nanosatellite (ELaNa) program. The KySat-2 spacecraft was designed and built exclusively in the state by Kentucky Space along with its partners Morehead State University and the University of Kentucky. Students at these universities made up the core of the spacecraft design/build team. “This launch represents another major milestone in the growth, impact and reach of Kentucky Space” said Twyman Clements, KS mission director. The mission team from Kentucky Space, including students and faculty from the universities were on-site for the launch. 

Kentucky Space is a private nonprofit enterprise focused on entrepreneurial, educational and commercial space solutions. 

Launch 2:

Kentucky Space LLC has announced a second successful launch this week (led by partner Morehead State University) out of Yasny, Russia at 1:10 p.m. local time November 21. 

The primary spacecraft in this mission is Unisat-5, a 40 kg microsatellite developed as a collaboration between Morehead State University, Kentucky Space, the University of Rome La Sapienzia Aerospace Engineering School and a commercial spin-off called the Group of Astrodynamics for the Use of Space Systems (GAUSS, Inc.). UniSat-5 was launched on a Dnepr rocket (a modified SS-18 ICBM) by the Kosmotras - a jointly held Russian-Ukrainian company that now manages the highly successful series of Dnepr Rockets. 

The primary objectives of the UniSat-5 mission are to flight validate some novel space hardware (including a cutting-edge flight computer), launch several secondary payloads and extend training for university students. Students and staff of the Morehead State Space Science Center developed many of the UniSat-5 spacecraft subsystems. UniSat-5 also serves as a "mother ship" that will eventually deploy eight smaller satellites built by aerospace space enterprises and universities. 

One of these secondary nanosatellites, Eagle-1, is a PocketQub™ that will be among the smallest spacecraft ever flown. This new satellite standard proposed in 2009 by Professor Robert Twiggs (Morehead State University) is even smaller than a CubeSat…called PocketQub. This Fempto-class satellite is a 5 cm cube that can fit in an individual's pocket. Eagle-1, weighing approximately 430 grams (just under one pound), is one of four PocketQubs and four CubeSats that will be deployed from UniSat-5. 

The PocketQub leverages the CubeSat standard and also builds on the accelerating miniaturization of electronics. PocketQubs could ultimately have a wide range of applications, including: space network nodes, sensor platforms and miniature satellite constellations that are inexpensive, redundant and spatially organized. 

“This has been a remarkable week in the rapidly growing entrepreneurial, commercial and educational space industry in Kentucky,” said Mission Director Dr. Benjamin K. Malphrus, chair of Morehead State University’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences. 

This is the second launch this week from two different continents by Kentucky Space and its partners. The first of the satellites (KySat-2) was successfully launched Tuesday, Nov. 19, from the NASA Launch Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia. 

Kentucky Space is a private nonprofit enterprise focused on entrepreneurial, educational and commercial space solutions. 

"Tiny" Satellite built by SSU and Morehead State University Students is now in Orbit

A very small satellite built by a team of Sonoma State University (SSU) and Morehouse State University (MSU) students has been successfully launched into outer space to measure the magnetic field of the earth. 

Called T-LogoQube, the one-pound satellite measuring 5 cm x 5 cm x 15 cm, was carried by a Russian DNEPR-1 rocket as it thundered into orbit on Nov. 21 from Dombarovsky Cosmodrome at Yasny, Russia. It carried an Italian micro-satellite called Unisat-5 which actually released the student-made satellite into space. It was the first such launch for SSU and breaks new ground for the University's physics and astronomy department allowing it to do space-based measurements with its own satellite. 

T-LogoQube is measuring the Earth's magnetic field in order to determine the satellite's pointing direction. It uses on-board magnetic torque coils to control its orientation and crosses Sonoma County at noon and midnight every 24 hours. 

The satellite transmits magnetic field and other data to ground stations at Dr. Garrett Jernigan's Little H-Bar Ranch in Petaluma, Calif. and the Space Science Center in Morehead, Kentucky. Jernigan is one of the mentors for the project along with MSU professor Bob Twiggs. 

The first data packets were received and decoded using the Little H-Bar Ranch ground system on Nov. 23. Commands were successfully sent back to T-LogoQube the next day from the radio transmitter at the ranch. 

T-LogoQube was built by about a dozen undergraduate students from SSU's Department of Physics and Astronomy (led by Chair Lynn Cominsky) and MSU's Department of Earth and Space Science in Kentucky (led by Chair Ben Malphrus). The Space Science Center at MSU conducts ground systems operations for and is partially supported by Kentucky Space, directed by Kris Kimel. 

Physics major Kevin Zack was the lead student on the entire project, while Sean McNeil and Will Roche led the MSU effort. Zack won the American Physical Society Far West's section Steven Chu Award for Undergraduate Research for his talk about the satellite at the sectional meeting held at SSU in early November. 

Other SSU physics students involved in the project are Ben Cunningham, Hunter Mills and Lauryn Loudermilk. SSU equipment technician Steve Anderson also provided important support in establishing an earlier testing facility in Darwin Hall on the SSU campus. 

At SSU, this project was supported by Professor Cominsky's NASA Education and Public Outreach group, and by a recent award through the SSU Provost's undergraduate research fund. 

After being tested at MSU's Space Science Center, Professor Malphrus took the T-LogoQube to Italy where Sean McNeil installed it into the Unisat-5. Malphrus then accompanied Unisat-5 to Russia for the launch. 

The Nov. 21 launch was the first to deploy PocketQubes, the smallest class of satellites ever operated in orbit. T-LogoCube is one of four PocketQubes launched from Unisat-5. PocketQubes are smaller versions of CubeSats: the PocketQube concept was originated by MSU Prof. Bob Twiggs. Both CubeSats and PocketQubes provide excellent educational opportunities for students as they are relatively inexpensive to build. 

Prior to launch, T-LogoQube was known by several other names: "Eagle-1", "BeakerSat-2" and "MagPocketQube." It was renamed after launch, a common tradition for successfully operating satellites. The "T" in T-LogoQube stands for "tiny." 

The "Logo" in T-LogoQube refers to the Logo programming language, which has been used for the first time on orbit. Logo software development was contributed by Brian Silverman, president of the Playful Invention Company (PICO). His brother Barry Silverman also made significant contributions to the ground system.