Small Satellites

Source: Sam Coniglio*

Open Source Satellite

Song Hojun: Open Source Satellite

So far, almost all space programs have been led by governments, usually as part of their military programs. Very seldom were these initiatives developed by amateurs. After three years of research and one year of experience as a satellite engineer, Song Hojun has found that it is possible to launch and operate a personal satellite at a fairly reasonable price. In addition, he has for the past five years been exploring ways to integrate the concept of a personal satellite project into cultural contexts and into his artistic practice. All the satellite-related systems (except for the rocket to launch it) are DIY programs — designed so that regular people may also have the chance of developing and eventually launching their own.

Check out this awesome interview.  He really gets the merging of art and technology.

Here is the manual he wrote to teach other people (assuming a non-engineer).  Not like a NASA manual, more like the art of building a satellite.

Sam Coniglio is photographer, Teacher, Designer, and Vice President of the Space Tourism Society

An English language podcast, Omega Tau, produced out of Germany hosts an interview with James Penson of the United Kingdom small satellite firm, Surrey Satellite. They discuss what satellite buses are.

Podcast link.

Related Links

This is an episode on how satellites work with James Penson from Surrey Satellite Technology. Specifically we talk about satellite buses, the infrastructure part of the satellite on which the (typically scientific) payload is mounted. The conversation covers structure, thermal protection, energy supply, communication, guidance and attitude control as well as propulsion.

Source: USC News

The USC Information Sciences Institute, in conjunction with the USC Space Engineering Research Center, is now at work on Aeneas, a dedicated USC satellite mission.

Supported by the Operationally Responsive Space Office and the Air Force Research Lab at Kirtland Air Force Base, the Aeneas mission is helping to validate a Department of Homeland Security technology demonstration program to track cargo containers worldwide.

According to Research Center associate director David Barnhart, the Aeneas will be a 3U Cubesat, a nanosatellite comprised of three interconnected cubic units, each with 10 centimeter sides. It will contain new payload technology for operation and maturation in radio frequency, computer and distributed operation applications for Cubesats.

The program is the first of several funded satellite and spacecraft development efforts at USC that will provide students hands-on experience in satellite design assembly and integration.

A team of student-professional integrators will enhance a baseline Cubesat bus, integrate newly developed primary and secondary payloads and write/load and checkout flight software for integration and test development.

The satellite will be environmentally tested at Wyle Labs in El Segundo for qualification and acceptance prior to shipment to the launch vehicle integrator.

Space Engineering Research Center students also are constructing a dedicated USC ground station to operate the satellite after launch and while it is in orbit. The station will have a 12-foot remote-controlled parabolic dish, as well as a server with custom-made communications and database software.

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering, home of the Information Sciences Institute, is working with other universities to become part of a global Cubesat ground station network for distributed command and control operations that will allow worldwide access at fractions of the cost of traditional command and control systems.

The Space Engineering Research Center is a result of discussions with NASA and Department of Defense managers to address increasing skill levels.

Students have gained real-world experience through the industry-team partnership and under tight scheduling and budgeting constraints, much like most current industry aerospace programs.

Each student in the program is emerging with exposure to key space industry skill sets, including systems engineering, manufacturing, integration and test of complex systems, design and operation of ground control stations and software, quality control and the overall programmatic flow of satellite design. Because each of the satellites subsystems is highly interdependent and critical to mission success, it is a multidisciplinary project in which students must simultaneously apply different elements from their curriculums.

Cubesats, which were first developed by Stanford University and Cal Poly San Luis Obisbo, have emerged as innovative toolsets that the next generation of aerospace engineers are using to help drive this change.

“Our goal is to cut down the current five-to-10 year cycle for advancement in aerospace to more of a ‘Google’ time frame where innovation occurs within months,” Barnhart said. “We believe the only way that will happen is by dramatically challenging the teaching model, and USC is doing just that.”

Another  recent Popular Mechanics article on New Space.

Excerpt from August 2009 Popular Mechanics article by Michael Belifore.

The cost of the cheapest ever satellite launch stands at more than $200,000. So is it possible to send an object into orbit for the cost of a new laptop? That’s the goal behind the N-Prize, a contest organized by U.K. molecular biologist Paul Dear. The winner will have to launch an object weighing about 0.35 to 0.7 ounces into space for less than $1500. The satellite will then have to stay up for at least nine orbits to win the $15,000 prize.

Press Release Oshkosh/Abu Dhabi, 28th July 2009: Aabar Investments and Virgin Group

Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments and Virgin Group
today announced that they have agreed to enter a strategic partnership, which will see Aabar
take an equity stake in the world’s first commercial spaceline – Virgin Galactic. To date,
Virgin Galactic has been wholly owned and funded by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.

The deal, signed today at the EAA AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin attended by
Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, and Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny, CEO of
Aabar. The signing ceremony is taking place alongside Virgin Galactic’s new carrier space
launch vehicle, WhiteKnightTwo (VMS Eve) which is making its public demonstration flying
debut in Oshkosh.

Under the deal, Aabar will invest approximately US$280m and take around a 32% stake in
Virgin Galactic’s holding company, valuing the business at about $900m. The transaction is
subject to obtaining regulatory clearances in the United States and elsewhere.  Additionally,
Aabar has committed $100m (plus transaction cost) to fund a small satellite launch capability,
subject to the development of a full business plan. It will also gain exclusive regional rights,
subject to regulatory clearances, to host Virgin Galactic tourism and scientific research space
flights. Finally, Aabar has plans to build spaceport facilities in Abu Dhabi.

Commenting on the acquisition, HE Khadem Al Qubaisi, Chairman of Aabar, said, “I am
pleased to announce this partnership. Virgin Galactic is the leader in the realm of space
tourism, having successfully established a potential global market for its offering in a very
short span of time. Aabar’s stake in Virgin Galactic will open a new avenue of opportunity for
Abu Dhabi in this unique and dynamic business. The significant partnership not only falls in
line with Abu Dhabi’s larger plans to inculcate technology research and science at a
grassroots level but also complements its aim to be the international tourism capital of the

Virgin Galactic is in the final stages of developing and testing commercial sub-orbital space
vehicles based on the prototype SpaceShipOne, that flew successfully to space and back three
times in 2004. The unique and innovative designs of the vehicles will transform the cost,
safety and environmental impact of access to space for people, science research and

Sir Richard Branson said, “We are delighted to partner with Aabar in a strategic deal that is a
first for Virgin Galactic. The initiative will leverage the solid financial backing of Aabar and
the pioneering technology and strong global relationships of Virgin Galactic. This exciting
deal is indicative of the interesting and high value investments that mark the UAE’s
commercial portfolio.”

The new joint venture also proposes to undertake additional development which would enable
the space system to launch small satellites at unprecedented levels of cost, reliability and

“This transaction carries multiple potential for the creation of an exceptional platform for
space infrastructure such as research labs, space centre for commercial travel and much
more,” said Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny.

Virgin Group has invested over $100m in Virgin Galactic since its formation in late 2004.
The development of its new vehicles is being carried out by Scaled Composites, the renowned
Mojave CA based aeronautical firm, owned by Northrop Grumman and led by Burt Rutan.

Scaled Composites was responsible for designing and building SpaceShipOne which won the
$10m X Prize in 2004 as the first privately funded manned space vehicle. The system is
highly innovative: it utilises a carrier aircraft for launch of the spaceship at high altitude, a
controllable and benign hybrid rocket motor and a unique wing feathering design for a
failsafe re-entry. The spaceship makes a runway landing rendering it almost entirely reusable.

The new commercial vehicles are now at an advanced stage of development. VMS Eve, VG’s
new carrier aircraft is well into its test flight programme and is performing flawlessly.  It is
the world’s largest all carbon composite aircraft and has a unique high altitude, heavy lift
capability.  Sir Richard Branson is due to be onboard VMS Eve as a member of the crew for a
demonstration flight during EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh on Tuesday 28th July.

The new spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo will commence its own test flight programme before the
end of 2009.  Both vehicles offer a unique environment for space tourism and a wide range of
science research applications as well as a platform for small satellite launch.

Patrick McCall, the Virgin Group Commercial Director responsible for the transaction said,
“We are building a great partnership for the development of the world’s first private sector
integrated human and payload space launch system. All of us at Virgin Galactic are very
much looking forward to working with Aabar’s Chairman, HE Khadem Al Qubaisi, its CEO
Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny and the whole Aabar team as we move forward together at
the cutting edge of the coming industrial revolution in space access. I would also like to take
this opportunity to thank Brandt Mowry, the senior vice-president of corporate development
who managed the transaction on behalf of Virgin Group.”

Virgin Galactic expects the capital infusion to fully fund the company through to its
commencement of commercial operations.

Credit Suisse acted as the exclusive financial advisor and placement agent to Virgin Galactic
regarding the transaction.

About Aabar
Aabar Investments PJSC is an investment company headquartered in Abu Dhabi and is on the
Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. It directly invests in various sectors including energy,
infrastructure, real estate, automotive and financial services companies. Its largest shareholder
is the International Petroleum Investment Company, which in turn is wholly owned by the
Government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

About Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic was launched by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group in 2004 with the
objective of developing commercial space vehicles which would transform the safety, cost
and environmental impact associated with access to space. As well as offering 1000’s of
ordinary people the chance to experience space for themselves, the system will be used for
space and high altitude science research and potentially developed to launch small satellites.
In the future the company expects to move on to the development of orbital vehicles capable
of carrying people, including the possibility of offering very fast trans –continental flights
around the planet.

Virgin Galactic’s vehicles use the design and technology developed by the renowned
aeronautical engineer, Burt Rutan, for SpaceShipOne, which as the world’s first privately
built manned spaceship, flew safely to space and back three times in 2004.

This remarkable and unique project is now in its final stages with the test flight programme of
the commercial vehicles underway. Already, approximately 300 people from around the
world have paid approaching $40m in deposits, representing $60m of ticket sales, to
guarantee an early seat.

Virgin Galactic’s guiding star is safety. In addition to a system that is proven and safer by
design, the vehicles are being put through a comprehensive and exhaustive test flight
programme before the inaugural commercial flight takes place on which Sir Richard Branson
and his family will fly.

Virgin Galactic astronauts will be prepared and trained for an experience of sensory overload,
from the incredible acceleration at launch through to the “out of seat” zero gravity
experienced in the blackness of space whilst looking through large windows at the
breathtaking views of the Blue Planet below.

All of Virgin Galactic’s first astronauts will be pioneers in a new industry which in the future
will allow us to make better use of space to improve life here on Earth.

For further details and assets covering the investor announcement go to