Orbital Science’s First Resupply Flight Carries Satellite Swarm

Some 31 CubeSats are en route to the International Space Station thanks to Orbital Sciences’ first launch of their Cygnus Orb-1, Orbital’s commercial resupply ship. Launched by an Antares rocket from Wallops, Virginia, it is Orbital’s first ISS resupply mission.

Orbital Sciences and SpaceX have both won contracts with NASA to provide resupply missions to the ISS.

Commercial providers are filling the void left by the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011. Orbital’s flight this week was the first three commercial resupply missions planned for 2014 by Orbital’s Antares/Cygnus vehicle and four by SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon cargo craft this year.

In the next few days, Orbital’s Cygnus will dock with the ISS and the payloads will be unloaded. The Qubesats will be deployed off ISS via the NanoRacks deployers over a period of 6 weeks. Spaceflight Services, with an extensive network of Launch Service Providers worldwide, provided the space station launch opportunity.

Jeffrey Manber, CEO of NanoRacks praised the teaming with Spaceflight as well as thanking “everyone at NASA and JAXA, the Japanese Space Agency that allowed the commercial ISS deployment to move forward.

UNSA-SAT1 hopes to be the first CubeSat to use 3400 MHz, an ITU Amateur-Satellite Service allocation. Built by students in Peru, UNSA-SAT1 is a 2U spacecraft (20x10x10cm) which will be part of the QB50 constellation of 50 CubeSats.

Sensors on the NanoRacks-ArduSat-2 will determine potential commercial applications for CubeSat data collection and commercial off-the-shelf electronics.

The Planet Labs Dove Flock-1, will use a fleet of 28 CubeSats – individually known as the Dove satellites – to capture imagery of Earth for use in humanitarian and environmental applications.

Built and operated by Planet Labs of San Francisco, imagery from these CubeSats will help pinpoint areas for disaster relief and improving growth of agricultural products.

Planet Labs launched Dove 1, 2, 3 and Dove 4, into orbit last year. This week, Planet Labs’ “Flock 1″ fleet of 28 satellites was launched on Orbital’s rocket.

Here’s Chris Boshuizen, founder and CTO of Planet Labs, at Tedx, explaining the company’s 28 Earth imaging spacecraft aboard the Cygnus.

Previously Chris worked on NASA PhoneSats. The Planet Labs swarm should enable applications to use virtually “live” satellite imagery – at affordable costs – rather than satellite imagery that’s months or years old.

Japan’s small satellite platform, Advanced Satellite with New System Architecture for Observation (Asnaro) hopes to gain market traction in countries with fledgling space programs.

NASA’s ELaNa program (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites) is designed to attract and retain science students.

The annual Small Satellite Conference in Ogden, UT, has on-line proceedings and presentations. The Pacific Telecommunications Conference, on Jan 19, 2014, brings together mobile, satellite, subsea, and terrestrial network operators. The 30th Space Symposium will be held in Colorado Springs from May 19-22, 2014.

Milsat Magazine has the latest NRO cost overruns.

In December, 2013, over 90 tiny Cubesats were launched. See: Satellite Swarms Revolutionize Earth Imaging

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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