ESTCube-1 Operating Smoothly, Mission to Start in August ({{commentsTotal}})

The first image of Earth from Estonia's satellite.
The first image of Earth from Estonia's satellite. Source: Photo: University of Tartu

ESTCube-1, the student-built nanosatellite that was launched into space from French Guiana two months ago, is functioning as planned and its Earth-based team is set to begin the "solar sail" experiment in August.

The 10x10x11.35 cm cube, weighing in at 1.048 kg, is currently in polar orbit 650 kilometers above the Earth, with a speed of 7.46 km/s, according to

Several photographs from the on-board camera have been received. A single photo can take a full day to download.

Meanwhile, programmers continue working to make adjustments to the satellite's communication system. Mart Noorma, one of the project leaders, said the team is very content with the launch because nanosatellites especially tend to have problems with sending electrical signals.

ESTCube-1 aims to test an electric solar wind sail technology developed by Finnish researcher Pekka Janhunen. In August, the cube will be told to roll out long wires that should create an electric field capable of harnessing solar energy as a method for propulsion that researchers hope can be used for high-speed travel of spacecraft in the future.

A sequel to the experiment will be conducted by Finland's first satellite, Aalto-1, which will be launched later this year and whose wires will reach 100 meters in length, 10 times further than those of ESTCube-1.