21 December 2012
UKube-1 - the UK's first CubeSat mission and Scotland's first satellite -has ‘booked' its journey into space on a Russian Soyuz-2 rocket. The launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrone in Kazakhstan is expected to take place in March 2013. UKube-1 has also completed Thermal Vacuum Testing to verify the spacecraft operation in a simulated space environment.
In preparation for launch, Clyde Space is taking the spacecraft through Environmental Verification Test, which consists of a series of physical assessments of the spacecraft's ability to survive the launch and operate in a space environment. Last week, UKube-1 and Clyde Space engineers spent a week at Astrium (UK) in Stevenage taking the spacecraft through Thermal Vacuum Testing. This involved evaluating the spacecraft's performance in a variety of operational modes to verify that all subsystems and payloads performed as expected in high vacuum and at temperature extremes.
"Thermal vacuum testing is one of the most important phases in the spacecraft test program," says Craig Clark, CEO at Clyde Space. "I'm proud of the team here at Clyde Space in achieving such a critical milestone in the mission. Ukube-1 aims to be the first of many nanosatellites produced at Clyde Space, and UKube-1 is a fantastic mission for us to demonstrate our capabilities as a spacecraft mission prime."
Ukube-1 is now entering the final testing phase, including further system level testing at Clyde Space and a functional check-out at the launch site. The next key test is EMC testing, closely followed by vibration testing, after which the spacecraft will be ready for launch.
The UKube-1 nanosatellite has been designed and manufactured by Clyde Space at their high-tech facility on the West of Scotland Science Park in Glasgow. The nanosatellite is one of the most advanced of its kind, the complexity of the spacecraft highlighted by the nature of the 6 independent, advanced payloads being flown by the mission. The UKube-1 mission is the pilot for a collaborative, national CubeSat programme bringing together UK industry and academia to fly educational packages, test new technologies and carry out new space research quickly and efficiently.
Payloads in UKube-1 include: the first GPS device aimed at measuring plasmaspheric space weather; a camera that will take images of the Earth, and test the effect of radiation on space hardware, using a new generation of imaging sensor; an experiment to demonstrate the feasibility of using cosmic radiation to improve the security of communications satellites and to flight test lower cost electronic systems; an advanced mission interface computer to enable serious number crunching on tiny spacecraft; a high rate S-Band transmitter and patch antenna; a payload made up of 5 experiments that UK students and the public can interact with. There is also an outreach payload that allows school children to interact with the spacecraft.
UKube-1 is a UK Space Agency mission. The mission has been funded jointly by Clyde Space (mission prime) and a number of funding partners including UK Space Agency, the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the Technology Strategy Board. There has also been support from Scottish Enterprise to develop key subsystem technologies including an advanced Attitude Determination and Control System, deployable solar panels for increased on-board power and the mission software suite.
As well as the platform and payload elements of the mission, UKube-1 is being generously supported by three UK Ground Stations. Led by the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory's Ground Segment, these crucial elements will provide the link to the orbiting spacecraft, as well as full planning of the operations. The supporting ground stations are provided by Dundee and Strathclyde Universities. The university of Strathclyde groundstation was installed by Clyde Space during an earlier phase of the spacecraft development.