The moment we’ve all been waiting for is now only days away: TAU’s first nanosatellite, TAU SAT1 is about to be launched into space. This exciting journey has been followed closely by many on the university’s social media, and we are happy to share that the launch itself can be watched live on Facebook on February 20 at 7:36 PM.
The development of TAU-SAT1 has been followed by many on the university’s social media
“This is a nanosatellite, or miniature satellite, of the ‘CubeSat’ variety,” explains Dr. Ofer Amrani, head of Tel Aviv University’s miniature satellite lab. “The satellite’s dimensions are 10 by 10 by 30 cm, the size of a shoebox. It weighs less than 2.5 kg. TAU-SAT1 is the first nanosatellite designed, built and tested independently in academia in Israel.”
The nanosatellite was devised, developed, assembled, and tested at the new Nanosatellite Center, an interdisciplinary endeavor of The Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering, Raymond & Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences and the Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences. The entire process has taken two years – an achievement that would not have been possible without the involvement of many people: the university administration, who supported the project and the setting up of the infrastructure on campus, Prof. Yossi Rosenwaks, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering; Professors Sivan Toledo and Haim Suchowski from the Raymond & Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences; Prof. Colin Price, researcher and lecturer in Athmospheric Sciences in the School of Geosciences and Head of the Porter School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, and, most importantly, the project team that dealt with R&D around the clock: Elad Sagi, Dolev Bashi, Tomer Nahum, Idan Finkelstein, Dr. Diana Laufer, Eitan Shlisel, Eran Levin, David Greenberg, Sharon Mishal, and Orly Blumberg.
TAU-SAT1 is a research satellite and will be conducting several experiments while in orbit. Among other things, it will measure cosmic radiation in space. “We know that that there are high-energy particles moving through space that originate from cosmic radiation,” says Dr. Meir Ariel, director of the university’s Nanosatellite Center. “Our scientific task is to monitor this radiation, and to measure the flux of these particles and their products. Space is a hostile environment, not only for humans but also for electronic systems. When these particles hit astronauts or electronic equipment in space, they can cause significant damage. The scientific information collected by our satellite will make it possible to design means of protection for astronauts and space systems. To this end, we incorporated several experiments into the satellite, which were developed by the Space Environment Department at the Soreq Nuclear Research Center.”
Like the weather on Earth, there is also weather in Space. This weather is linked to storms that occur on the surface of our Sun, and impact the environment around the Earth. Prof. Colin Price researches and lectures in Atmospheric Sciences and explains that “When there are storms on the Sun, highly energetic particles are fired at the Earth at speeds of hundreds of kilometers per second, and when these energetic particles hit the Earth’s atmosphere, they can cause lots of damage to satellites, spacecraft and even astronauts.” TAUSAT1 will be studying these storms and their impact on the atmosphere at the height of 400km above the Earth, testing the damage produced by the tiny particles. This will help understand the hostile environment satellite face due to space weather.
At an altitude of 400 km above sea level, the nanosatellite will orbit the earth at a dizzying speed of 27,600 km per hour, or 7.6 km per second. At this speed, the satellite will complete an orbit around the Earth every 90 minutes. “In order to collect data, we built a satellite station on the roof of the engineering building,” says Dr. Amrani. “Our station, which also serves as an amateur radio station, includes a number of antennas and an automated control system. When TAU-SAT1 passes ‘over’ the State of Israel, that is, within a few thousand kilometer radius from the ground station’s receiving range, the antennas will track the satellite’s orbit and a process of data transmission will occur between the satellite and the station. Such transmissions will take place about four times a day, with 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, after which it will burn up in the atmosphere and return to the Earth as stardust.
Launching the TAU-SAT1 nanosatellite marks TAU’s first step of joining the ‘new space’ revolution, aiming to open space up to civilians as well. The idea is that any researcher or student, from any faculty at Tel Aviv University, or outside of it, will be able to plan and launch experiments into space in the future – even without being an expert in the field.
Over the last few years, TAU has been working on establishing a Nanosatellite Center to build small “shoebox” size satellites for launch into space. “We are seeing a revolution in the field of civilian space”, explains Prof. Colin Price, one of the academic heads of the new center. “We call this ‘new space’, as opposed to the ‘old space’, where only giant companies with huge budgets and large teams of engineers could build satellites.
After undergoing pre-flight testing at the Japanese space agency JAXA, TAU-SAT1 was sent to the United States, where it “hitched a ride” on a NASA and Northrop Grumman resupply spacecraft destined for the International Space Station. At the station, this upcoming Saturday evening, a robotic arm will release TAU-SAT1 into a low-earth orbit (LEO) around the Earth, approximately 400km above the Earth.
Last inspections in the clean room. TAU SAT1