An Unlikely Pair of Satellites

Students working on AggieSat4 and Bevo-2 satellites - Credit Texas A&M University / Dexter Becklund

Students working on the AggieSat4 and Bevo-2 satellites – Credit Texas A&M University / Dexter Becklund

Dr Helen Reed KD7GPX is interviewed in a NASA story about the AggieSat4 and Bevo-2 satellites which were deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) on January 29, 2016.

Students from Texas A&M University and The University of Texas came together for the LONESTAR investigation.

This collaborative effort sent a pair of satellites, AggieSat4 and Bevo-2, to the International Space Station. The satellites were deployed from the space station on January 29, and AggieSat4 will eject Bevo-2 as part of a demonstration of technology with applications for future space exploration.

The two satellites will demonstrate communication protocols between them and with ground stations, as well as systems that allow the satellites to navigate through space and relative to each other and to orient themselves in three dimensions. Flight demonstration of these abilities, necessary for unmanned craft to be able to rendezvous and dock in space without direct human intervention, will contribute to future satellite missions as well.

“The overall objective is to find ways for small spacecraft to join together autonomously in space,” said Dr. Helen Reed, KD7GPX, professor of aerospace engineering and director of the AggieSat Lab at Texas A&M. “We need simple systems that will allow rendezvous and docking with little to no help from a human, which will become especially important as we venture farther out into space. Applications could include in-space assembly or reconfiguration of larger structures or systems as well as servicing and repair.”

Small satellites are less expensive to build and investigators can more easily find space on rocket launches to send them into orbit, but it does take creative thinking to design a functioning satellite with smaller volume and less power. Bevo-2 is 13.3 inches long, 5.3 inches high and 5.3 inches wide, about the size of a loaf of bread. AggieSat4 measures 24 by 24 by 12 inches, slightly larger than a piece of carry-on luggage. Together the satellites weigh 114 pounds.

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Watch The deployment of AggieSat4

The IARU has coordinated these frequencies for the amateur radio payloads:
• AggieSat4 436.250 MHz 9k6 FSK telemetry (also 153.6 kbps FSK)
• Bevo-2 437.325 MHz CW and 38k4 FSK

The AggieSat4 team request that any amateur radio enthusiasts receiving the beacons sends any data to it would be much appreciated!

AggieSat4 information

Bevo-2 information

AggieSat4 reception reports

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Media Accreditation Open for Next Commercial Space Station Cargo Mission

NASA has opened media accreditation for the next launch of a commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled for Thursday, March 10, during a 30-minute window that opens at approximately 3 a.m. EST.

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EDRS-A liftoff

The first laser node of the European Data Relay System lifted off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan atop a Proton rocket on 29 January at 22:20 GMT.

Dubbed the ‘SpaceDataHighway’, EDRS will uniquely provide near-realtime Big Data relay services using cutting-edge laser technology. It will dramatically improve access to time-critical data, aiding disaster response by emergency services and maritime surveillance.

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Italy, Alps and Mediterranean

ESA astronaut Tim Peake posted this photo on his social media channels, commenting "Beautiful night pass over Italy, Alps and Mediterranean".

Tim's six-month mission to the International Space Station is named Principia, after Isaac Newton’s ground-breaking Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which describes the principal laws of motion and gravity.

He is performing more than 30 scientific experiments for ESA and taking part in numerous others from ESA’s international partners.

ESA and the UK Space Agency have partnered to develop many exciting educational activities around the Principia mission, aimed at sparking the interest of young children in science and space.

More about the Principia mission:

More photos from Tim on his flickr photostream:

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A misbehaving spiral

Despite its unassuming appearance, the edge-on spiral galaxy captured in the left half of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is actually quite remarkable.

Located about one billion light-years away in the constellation of Eridanus, this striking galaxy — known as LO95 0313-192 — has a spiral shape similar to that of the Milky Way. It has a large central bulge, and arms speckled with brightly glowing gas mottled by thick lanes of dark dust. Its companion, sitting pretty in the right of the frame, is known rather unpoetically as [LOY2001] J031549.8-190623.

Jets, outbursts of superheated gas moving at close to the speed of light, have long been associated with the cores of giant elliptical galaxies, and galaxies in the process of merging. However, in an unexpected discovery, astronomers found LO95 0313-192 to have intense radio jets spewing out from its centre! The galaxy appears to have two more regions that are also strongly emitting in the radio part of the spectrum, making it even rarer still.

The discovery of these giant jets in 2003 — not visible in this image, but indicated in this earlier Hubble composite — has been followed by the unearthing of a further three spiral galaxies containing radio-emitting jets in recent years. This growing class of unusual spirals continues to raise significant questions about how jets are produced within galaxies, and how they are thrown out into the cosmos.

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Sierra Leone River Estuary

Part of Sierra Leone in West Africa is pictured in this image the Sentinel-2A satellite captured on 11 December 2015.

The country’s capital, Freetown, sits on a peninsula at the bottom of the image. Its economy revolves around its natural deep water harbour – one of the world’s largest. North of Freetown and across the river, we can see the runways of the Lungi International Airport.

The area in the central-right portion of the image is the Sierra Leone River Estuary. The estuary is dominated by mangroves and lowland coastal plains and is an important breeding habitat for multiple waterbird species.

Diverse socio-economic activities are supported by the estuary, such as fishing, tourism and sea transport, which help to alleviate poverty at the community level.

But the estuary is being threatened by a growing population. For example, unauthorised housing development has caused the removal of about 20 hectares of mangrove vegetation over the past five years alone. Poor waste disposal, unsustainable fishing and many other factors are also taking their toll on the ecosystem.

Some 295 000 hectares of this estuary is protected under the Ramsar Convention – an intergovernmental treaty for the sustainable use of wetlands.  There are over 2000 sites worldwide considered to be wetlands of international importance by the Convention.

ESA assists the Ramsar Convention through the GlobWetland Africa project and the TIGER initiative ‘Looking After Water in Africa’, which provide satellite data to be used to monitor and sustainably manage these precious resources.

World Wetlands Day is observed on 2 February, the anniversary of the signing of the Convention. The theme of this year’s World Wetlands Day is ‘Wetlands for our Future: Sustainable Livelihoods’.

This image is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.

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