Saturday, January 25, 2014

Lithuania's First Satellite to Send Greetings from Space

Lituanica SAT-1. Credit: kosmonautai.lt

On January 9, 2014, while the whole world watched Orbital's Cygnus launch to ISS, Lithuanians had their eyes on a small satellite onboard the Antares rocket lifting off from Wallops Island. Lituanica SAT-1 was successfully launched among other cubesats and a cargo craft to space station, giving the country a solid reason to be space proud. Lithuania is the country with no significant space exploration history, thus launching nation's first satellite is really a major milestone in spaceflight for this Baltic state. "The project met huge interest from the society, especially as it was from the very beginning well publicized in the media" Laurynas Mačiulis, chief mission engineer told astrowatch.net.

LituanicaSAT-1 is a cube satellite measuring 10x10x10 cm. The primary mission objective is to provide university students and young engineers knowledge and real hands-on experience in satellite engineering thereby helping to develop infrastructure and know-how in space technology by interdisciplinary interaction between academia and industry in Lithuania. Vilnius University (VU) plays the leading role in the mission. "Students and scientists from VU have been involved in the design and implementation of flight software and mission control software. Also the mission control center is also located in the premises of VU." said Mačiulis. "The final integration of the satellite took place in the VU. VU has also covered the launch costs." he added.

Laurynas Mačiulis presents LituanicaSAT-1 during lecture at school. Credit: delfi.lt
Laurynas Mačiulis presents LituanicaSAT-1 during lecture at school. Credit: delfi.lt

One of the mission objectives is to take the first Lithuanian pictures from space. "We also started a campaign were everyone can register his own pixel in the first picture that will be taken from space with our satellite" said Mačiulis. LituanicaSAT-1 will also broadcast Lithuanian words from space, the salutation from the president of Lithuania: „Greetings to Lithuanians all around the world!“.

"It's wonderful to see that a country like Lithuania, your president is excited, that everybody is excited, and it's wonderful that you could deliver it to your country and your people, without astronomical costs." said Nanoracks CEO, Jeffrey Manber. Nanoracks provided the launch for LituanicaSAT-1. It is a US comercial company which has the capability to put comercial payload on ISS.



The mission is specially dedicated to honor the 80th Anniversary of the flight across the Atlantic by Lithuanian-American pilots Steponas Darius and Stasys Girenas. Therefore the satellite bears the name of the original aircraft used during this historic flight – “Lituanica”.

The satellite carries locally manufactured primary and secondary flight computers which control the payload consisting of an onboard VGA photo camera and state of art FM Mode V/U Voice Repeater, designed and built by Lithuanian radio-amateurs. Satellite’s external solar panels were specially built and donated by Lithuanian based R&D company „Precizika-MET SC“. One of the mission secondary goals is also to test under space environment different microcontroller designs and MEMS sensors that are integrated into on-board computers.

LituanicaSAT-1 does not have any active systems except the antenna deployment mechanism that is engaged 30 minutes after deployment sequence. Both attitude and thermal control sub-systems are implemented passively for simplicity and safety. The total mass of the body including the equipment within it is 1,090 kg.

Scientists work on the LituanicaSAT-1. Credit: kosmonautai.lt
Scientists work on the LituanicaSAT-1. Credit: kosmonautai.lt

The satellite will be launched from the International Space Station to space by JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata. According to Mačiulis the exact date of the deployment into orbit is not yet known, but it won't happen earlier than the end of February.

Asked about the future missions, Mačiulis revealed that the team is involved in the design study of a cubesat mission that is planned to take part in the QB50 project. The project is an international network of 50 double and triple CubeSats. QB50 has the scientific objective to study in situ the temporal and spatial variations of a number of key constituents and parameters in the lower thermosphere (90-320 km) with a network of about 40 double CubeSats, separated by a few hundred kilometres and carrying identical sensors.

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