ESA Announces Vega CubeSat Selection
Artist's view of Vega
7 June 2008
After a thorough and exhaustive review of 22 proposals that were received from universities all over Europe, ESA officials have finally selected 9 CubeSats (plus two back-ups) that will be flown during the debut of Europe’s new Vega launch vehicle in late 2008 or early 2009.
Accepting the recommendations of the selection board, René Oosterlinck, ESA Director of Legal Affairs and External Relations, and Antonio Fabrizi, the Agency’s Director of Launchers, signed an agreement on 30 May to fly these innovative educational payloads.
“We are very pleased with the selection for the Vega Maiden Flight, as it reflects the diverse range of CubeSat designs and the variety of miniaturised technologies and sensors being developed by many universities in Europe today,” said Roger Walker, head of (hands-on) project activities in ESA’s Education Office.
“By undertaking this first flight we hope to give the European CubeSat community a real boost, and enable tens of students to gain practical experience in qualifying their satellites for launch then actually operating them in orbit.”
“We would like to thank each of the teams that applied to fly on Vega’s first flight,” said Benoit Geffroy from the Vega Integrated Project Team. “The Vega team is very proud that the CubeSat educational payload will be flying on the new launcher.”
The 9 CubeSats will be accommodated in three P-POD deployment systems which are to be mounted on the payload interface of Vega’s AVUM upper stage. Each 1 kg CubeSat will be deployed into a high inclination, low Earth orbit, and is expected to operate in orbit for up to one year using a small ground station based at the respective university.
Students at the CubeSat workshop
The Vega educational payload was originally to include six CubeSats, but the ESA selection board was so impressed with the proposed payloads that it recommended to launch an additional three satellites in an extra P-POD deployment system.
“We will also try to find a flight opportunity for the two back-ups if they don’t fly on the Vega maiden flight,” added Roger Walker. “Meanwhile, I would also encourage those who were not selected this time to consider re-applying when future flight opportunities become available.”
An artist's impression of the SwissCube
The final selection of the chosen CubeSats for the Vega Maiden Flight was primarily based on the project objectives and technical quality of the proposals, together with their educational return. The 9 chosen payloads are listed below, with their mission objectives:
- SwissCube (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland): a mission to characterise the air glow phenomenon in the Earth's atmosphere;
- Xatcobeo (a collaboration of the University of Vigo and INTA, Spain): a mission to demonstrate software-defined radio and solar panel deployment;
- UNICubeSAT (University of Rome, Italy): performing in-situ measurements of atmospheric neutral density using the Broglio drag balance instrument;
- Robusta (University of Montpellier 2, France): a mission to test and evaluate radiation effects (low dose rate) on bipolar transistor electronic components;
- AtmoCube (University of Trieste, Italy): in-situ monitoring of space environment parameters such as radiation flux, magnetic field and atmospheric density;
- e-st@r (Politecnico di Torino, Italy): demonstration of an active 3-axis Attitude Determination and Control system including an inertial measurement unit;
- OUFTI-1 (University of Liège, Belgium): a mission to test the use of the D-STAR amateur radio digital communication protocol in space;
- Goliat (University of Bucharest, Romania): imaging of the Earth surface using a digital camera and in-situ measurement of radiation dose and micrometeoroid flux;
- PW-Sat (Warsaw University of Technology, Poland): a mission to test a deployable atmospheric drag augmentation device for de-orbiting CubeSats.
Two backup CubeSats were selected in case any of the primary CubeSats are not able to fulfil the requirements of the launch opportunity. They are:
- UWE-3 (University of Wuerzburg, Germany): demonstration of an active 3-axis Attitude Determination and Control system using magnetorquers;
- HiNCube (Narvik University College, Norway): imaging of the Earth surface using a digital camera.
Professors and their students inspect a CubeSat kit and P-POD from Stanford Uni/CalPoly
The future schedule for the selected teams is as follows:
- CubeSat mass dummy unit delivery to ESTEC for P-POD fit check: launch – 14 weeks;
- CubeSat Flight Acceptance Reviews (FARs): launch – 12 weeks;
- CubeSat flight hardware shipment to CSG, Kourou and final integration into P-PODs: launch – 10 weeks;
- target launch date late 2008 / early 2009 (TBC)
ESA Education Office Involvement
The ESA Education Office at ESTEC is responsible for acting as the management and technical interface between the Vega project team and the selected CubeSat teams. The Vega project provides the launch opportunity free of charge.
The ESA Education Office is providing:
- three P-POD deployers built by CalPoly in the United States;
- any supplementary tests of the flight CubeSats at the test facilities at ESTEC if required by the launch authority;
- integration of the CubeSats into the deployers;
- ESTEC expert support for reviews and ad hoc technical support;
- travel and subsistence expenses for up to three students in each CubeSat team to attend the necessary workshops and technical interface meetings at ESTEC, and to participate in the integration and test campaign at ESTEC, as well as the launch campaign in Kourou.
In recognition of the growing importance of CubeSats as hands-on education tools, the ESA Education Office is organising the Second European CubeSat Workshop, which is scheduled to take place at ESTEC on 20-22 January 2009. During the workshop, all of the European CubeSat teams (including the selected teams for the Vega flight) will have the opportunity to present their progress and exchange information.