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Tel Aviv University aims to launch a shoebox-sized satellite next year

Tel Aviv University plans to launch a shoebox-sized research nanosatellite, in a spacecraft sent by NASA and the US aerospace firm Northrop Grumman to refuel the International Space Station in the first quarter of 2021.

Once on the ISS, a robotic arm will launch the TAU-SAT1 nanosatellite into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The satellite will conduct various experiments while in orbit, including measuring cosmic radiation in space.

The TAU-SAT1 is currently undergoing pre-flight testing at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). From Japan, the satellite will be sent to the United States, where it will "board" the refueling spacecraft, the university said in a statement Sunday.

"This is a nanosatellite, or miniature satellite, of the 'CubeSat' variety," said Ofer Amrani, director of the miniature satellite laboratory at Tel Aviv University, in the statement. “The dimensions of the satellite are 10 by 10 by 30 centimeters, (4 x 4 by 12 inches) the size of a shoe box and it weighs less than 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds). TAU-SAT1 is the first independently designed, built and independently tested nanosatellite in academia in Israel. "

Tel Aviv University researchers working on the nanosatellite they hope to launch in 2021 ( Courtesy)

The TAU-SAT1 was created, developed, assembled and tested at the new Center for Nanosatellites in Tel Aviv, an interdisciplinary company of the Faculties of Engineering and Exact Sciences and the Porter School of Media Environment and Earth Sciences from the university.

At approximately 400 kilometers (249 miles) above sea level, the nanosatellite will orbit the Earth at a speed of 27,600 kilometers (17,150 miles) per hour, or 7 , 6 kilometers (4.72 miles) per second, completing one orbit around the Earth every 90 minutes, the statement says.

"We know that there are high-energy particles that move through space and that originate from cosmic radiation, "said Meir Ariel, director of the university's Center for Nanosatellites. "Our scientific task is to monitor this radiation and measure the flux of these particles and their products."

Space is a harsh environment, not only for humans but also for electronic systems, Ariel explained. When these particles hit astronauts or electronic equipment in space, they can cause significant damage.

"The scientific information collected by our satellite will allow us to design means of protection for astronauts and space systems," said Ariel.

One of the challenges is how to extract the data collected by the TAU-SAT1 satellite, and for this the researchers installed a satellite station on the roof of the university's engineering building.

The nanosatellite developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University (Courtesy)

“Our station, which also serves as an amateur radio station, includes several antennas and an automated control system ”Amrani said. “When TAU-SAT1 passes over the State of Israel, that is, within a radius of a few thousand kilometers from the reception range of the ground station, the antennas will track the satellite orbit and a data transmission process will take place. between the satellite and the station. . These transmissions will take place about four times a day, each one lasting less than 10 minutes. ”

In addition to its scientific mission, the satellite will also serve as a space relay station for amateur radio communities around the world. In total, the satellite is expected to be active for several months. Since it has no motor, its trajectory will sink over time as a result of atmospheric resistance. It will burn up in the atmosphere and return to earth as stardust, the university said.

Dr. Ofer Amrani, Director of the Miniature Satellite Laboratory at Tel Aviv University (YouTube screenshot)

The launch of the TAU-SAT1 is the first step from Tel Aviv University to join the world space revolution in which research is open to civil institutions and companies.

"We are seeing a revolution in the civil space field," said Colin Price, one of the academic directors of the new center. “We called this new space, as opposed to the old space where only giant companies with big budgets and big teams of engineers could build satellites. As a result of the miniaturization and modulation of many technologies, today universities are building small satellites that can be developed and launched in less than two years, and for a fraction of the budget in the previous space. ”

The Tel Aviv University nanosatellite was built and tested with the help of a team of students and researchers, who built the entire infrastructure, including the clean rooms, various test facilities such as the thermal vacuum chamber and the receiving station and transmission on the roof.

In 2017, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) launched a nanosatellite into space to carry out scientific missions for researchers, the result of a five-year project developed by BGU, Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. and the Ministry of Science, technology and space.

NSLComm, an Israel-based aerospace technology startup that developed a nanosatellite that expands in space to increase connectivity capacity, launched its first satellite, the NSLSat-1, in 2019, as part of a rocket payload. Soyuz. In September, the Dido-3 nanosatellite, which weighs just 2.3 kilograms (five pounds), was launched into space as a product of the Israeli-Italian collaboration, to conduct experiments and collect medical, biological and chemical data.

And in April 2019, Israel's Beresheet spacecraft crashed into the moon's surface, shattering the nation's dreams of putting a spacecraft on Earth's satellite.

Now that the infrastructure has been created, researchers at Tel Aviv University can begin to develop TAU-SAT2, the statement says.

"The idea is that any researcher and any student, from any Tel Aviv University faculty, or outside of it, can plan and launch experiments into space in the future, even without being an expert in the field," the statement said. .

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