Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Switzerland Sends Its First Satellite Into Space

Date:
September 24, 2009
Source:
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Summary:
The first Swiss satellite in history -- extremely small and 100 percent student designed and built -- has been successfully launched from the Sriharikota space station in India. Constructed by the EPFL, with many institutional partners, the SwissCube has gone into orbit.

The SwissCube satellite is only 10 cubic centimeters in size and weighs a light 820 grams. It is equipped with a telescope to fulfill its mission of observing airglow.
Credit: Image courtesy of SwissCube

The first Swiss satellite in history -- extremely small and 100 percent student designed and built -- has been successfully launched from the Sriharikota space station in India. Constructed by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, with many institutional partners, the SwissCube has gone into orbit. Those who worked on it adhered to extremely precise requirements for space travel.

The Indian launcher Polar Space Launch Vehicle took off at 8:22 a.m. Swiss time. Twenty minutes later, the SwissCube was ejected from the nose cone of the rocket at an altitude of around 720 kilometers. At 9:37 a.m. the first ever signals sent from a Swiss satellite in space were picked up from Stanford (California).

Students and professors have been working very hard during the last three and a half years in order to send the concentrated cube of high technology into space. The SwissCube satellite is only 10 cubic centimeters in size and weighs a light 820 grams. It is equipped with a telescope to fulfill its mission of observing airglow. Airglow is a luminescent phenomenon in the planetary atmosphere caused by cosmic rays striking the upper atmosphere and chemiluminescence caused mainly by oxygen and nitrogen reacting with hydroxyl ions at heights of a few hundred kilometers. The satellite should allow students and researchers to better understand the phenomenon, especially during day and night cycles.

But the real goal of the SwissCube project is more pedagogic that atmospheric. Almost 200 students working closely with experienced researchers from the EPFL and several other technical schools and departments have collaborated on the project. From the conception, through the design, and finally the fabrication of the Swiss spatial sparkler—these young engineers have had the unique opportunity of participating in a space project from the first brainstorming sessions to the data collection once in orbit. This educational model focuses on cross-platform collaboration from A-Z, and apart from ensuring an exceptional finished product, prepares students for the work world in a way that sets it apart from similar attempts at other technical universities that often buy a prefabricated CubeSat kit. Furthermore, keeping to a strict budget helps students learn how to deal with monetary constraints once in the work world.

A low-cost and innovative satellite

Ruag Space, the Loterie romande, and the Swiss government contributed to the majority of the project's financing with several Swiss enterprises contributing the rest. With the exception of a small involvement by the German company EADS-Astrium, the project was a wholly Swiss collaboration. In sum, the total cost of the project is 600,000 Swiss francs (400,000 Euro), including the launching; surprisingly little when compared to the high cost of most satellites, or even other student based projects.

The most difficult technical aspect is found in its extremely small size. Brutal variations of temperature (-50°C to over 70°C) as well as solar radiation and spatial vacuum subject the material to the toughest conditions. Vibrations caused by the launching do not allow for the smallest error in welding. For each component, engineers and students had to run a series of fastidious tests in order to ensure their durability.

The size and budget constraints have led to several innovations that may be used in future commercial satellites. For example, the engineers had to develop a more efficient system of copper contacts connecting the solar cells to the walls of the satellite to conduct electricity to the interior. By playing with the size, form, and spacing of these contacts, the team developed a new method which is both efficient and inexpensive.

The SwissCube mission should last between three months and one year. Traveling at over seven kilometers a second, the satellite will complete a full rotation of the earth every 99 minutes. Once or twice a day, the EPFL and the HES-SO in Fribourg, Switzerland, will receive radio transmission from the SwissCube—allowing for only 10 minutes to deliver complex information: telescope images, temperature measurements as well as scientific data about airglow. These data will be indispensable for preparing future Swiss satellites, for there will be, without a doubt, more than just one Swiss satellite orbiting the earth in the upcoming years.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. "Switzerland Sends Its First Satellite Into Space." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090923102333.htm>.
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. (2009, September 24). Switzerland Sends Its First Satellite Into Space. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090923102333.htm
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. "Switzerland Sends Its First Satellite Into Space." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090923102333.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

AP (July 23, 2014) — The Progress 56 cargo ship launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday. NASA says it will deliver cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) — A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) — NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) — Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:  

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile iPhone Android Web
          Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins