Thursday, May 5, 2016

Russia Loses Contact with Its Nanosatellite Launched from Vostochny

SamSat-218 nanosatellite. Photo Credit: SSAU

The tiny nanosatellite SamSat-218 that was launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome on Apr. 28, has failed to establish radio contact with the mission control, several Russian media outlets are reporting. According to Interfax news agency, although the spacecraft was put into orbit as planned, it is sending only fragmentary signals to Earth.

“Currently, fragmentary Morse code signals are being heard coming from the nanosatellite, against the background of the noise during the satellite's pass over the receiving station,” Interfax said in a press release.

SamSat-218, built by the Samara State Aerospace University (SSAU), is a two-unit CubeSat with a mass of only 8.8 pounds (4 kilograms) and an additional empty one-unit compartment for aerodynamic stabilization. The tiny spacecraft was designed to demonstrate attitude stabilization by using aerodynamic forces. It was expected to develop algorithms helpful for nanosatellite orientation control.

The nanosatellite was launched along with the Lomonosov and Aist-2D spacecraft atop a Soyuz-2.1a rocket from Vostochny on the Cosmorome’s opening mission. The flight, lasting several hours, ended in the separation of satellites from the launch vehicle. However, after SamSat-218 was placed into orbit, it started to spin round too quickly and probably failed to switch on.

"There are currently no sufficient grounds to believe the nanosatellite established contact. There were fragmentary weak signals at the frequency of 145.870 MHz against a background of noises when the nanosatellite was in the area of radiovisibility of the ground control center, which can’t be with confidence interpreted as signals from the satellite," Igor Belokonov, the head of the SamSat-218 project told TASS.

The designers of the satellite are currently analyzing the data received in order to understand the nature of the problem, looking for possible solutions.

According to Belokonov, the student mission control center of SSAU keeps trying to receive signals from the satellite during its passing above Samara.

The satellite is equipped with a radio beacon, which transmits the word 'SamSat-218'. Russia’s radio enthusiasts are also engaged in the activities to help establish contact with the satellite when it is in the area of the antenna systems’ coverage.

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